OUSU in financial meltdown

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Oxford University Students’ Union stands to make a loss of about £61,000 this year despite budgeting for a £110 profit. 2008/9 saw the organisation lose £57,000 and OUSU predicts a loss of about £66,000 for 2010/11.

Stefan Baskerville, OUSU President argues, “OUSU is not funded to support its current operational structure”.

OUSU’s income this year was £366,101, sourced mainly from grants. Its total expenditure is increasing year on year.

To make up this deficit it has been proposed that OUSU ask the University for an increased grant of £390,000 for the year 2010-11, as the current grant of £233,000 is not sufficient.

When questioned at OUSU Council on the issue of autonomy when asking the University for a block grant, Baskerville stated, “How much autonomy do we really have when we’re predicting 66k deficits for the next year?”

The main sources of expenditure are elected officers (£121,182 per year) and buildings costs, which amount to £129,095. Baskerville admitted, “OUSU spends an excessive portion of its income on costs associated with its premises.”

He added, “OUSU would place a higher priority on maintaining services to students than on services costs.”

Some of OUSU’s costs are soaring – in 2008/9 OUSU publications only cost the organisation £120. This year OUSU estimates it will have spent £12,000 on its publications.

Elections are also costly, with £2,650 spent on them this year, £1000 more than estimated. These costs are generated from OUSU’s decision to use mi-voice software. Despite the introduction of this software and OUSU’s “Get Involved” campaign, voter turnout continues to be disappointing. The software is also used by several common rooms.

Officer training this year is set to cost £180, while next year OUSU will spend £3,710 on training. Conference attendance has set OUSU back £905 in 2009/10 and looks set to cost £1,235 next year. Lack of funding has prevented OUSU officers from attending conferences in the past and OUSU claim in their guide to the 2010/11 budget, “This means that we simply don’t find out about developments in other SUs and don’t therefore take advantage of initiatives which are being launched elsewhere.”

One third year Classics student said, “It would be nice if OUSU were more relevant than it is but it’s inevitable that it won’t be because of JCRs. People don’t know where their money is going and perhaps the University should split up these funds amongst JCRs.”

The finances for OSSL, a subsidiary of OUSU that is responsible for running Freshers’ Fair, Oxide Radio and various publications including The Oxford Student and the Oxford Handbook look much healthier. The OSSL report, however, doesn’t provide any running costs and only shows estimated costs for 2009/10 and next year’s budget.

The OxStu’s projected income for this year is £9,000 and OSSL predict it will almost double next year to £17,000. OSSL have cut printing costs for their publications and seen improvements in advertising, which they consider to be a direct result of employing a long-term Advertising Co-ordinator.

However Oxide has a deficit of £1,500, and next year the station is expected to cost a further £1,000. Oxide has faced financial difficulties for years and in 2006 OUSU cut Oxide’s budget of £5,700 completely. This resulted in presenters being forced to pay for their own shows.

One third year St. Hilda’s student said, “Sadly, I don’t think anyone would really notice that much if they got rid of Oxide”.

In an e-mail to fellow MCR presidents, St. Catz MCR co-president Ben Britton described the OUSU budget as “an improvement on last years offering” but “still substantially lacking and fundamentally flawed”.

He continued, “The current income streams are not sufficient to cover costs, which will compound OUSU’s perilous financial situation. This will only force OUSU to rock up, bowl in hand, and ask our University for a vast grant or loan, no doubt sourced from our University fees, with many potential strings attached”.

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