Members of ULU’s vibrant and unique societies are in the dark about how the closure of the union will affect them. Their funding has been slashed and the university has made no commitment to funding them next year. There is even the suggestion that sports equipment will be sold off to cover ULU’s debts.
“We will be able to keep the sailing club going because of the successful events we run,” said Commodore Alison Norbury, “but all the clubs and societies feel the same anxiety about the future of ULU.” The team may also be barred from competing at BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport).
Micheal Burbeck, Captain of the Canoe Water Polo team, is cautiously confident, “We are incredibly unique, and also the fastest growing water sport in the country.” Their main concern is keeping their level of access to the pool.
The football and hockey clubs, however, have been singled out for closure, despite offering both elite and fun opportunities to play. Daniel Cooper, Vice-President of ULU and responsible for sports and societies is pessimistic, “The societies are going to be irreparably damaged; they’ll have to shut down, downsize or move away.”
SOAS societies will also lose the space they use in Malet Street. “There’s been no guarantee publicly from the university that the clubs and societies should even exist anymore.” Nor has the planning group made any decisions on funding.
According to Professor Paul Webley, head of the review board, the more niche societies will survive the shutdown, “There’s some other clubs that are genuinely and distinctively, pan-London. It would be elite activities mainly, where you’ve got orchestras and you need to draw on high level stuff.”
However, a lot of ULU services were duplicating those provided by students’ unions. Webley defends the proposed closure of some societies, saying, “If you’re a mountaineering person and you really enjoy having two clubs rather than one, that’s a slight decrement in your student experience. On the other hand students will find on average they’re getting much better services.”
Despite funding cuts, ULU was dedicating over £100,000 a year to their societies. They’ve been focusing on minority and liberation based sports such as wheelchair basketball and women’s self-defence, offering development and training and promoting societies across different campuses.
ULU is campaigning to save the clubs and societies, which includes a petition and a ‘Come in your kit’ event on 6th November.