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Practically all further education colleges in the United Kingdom have students unions in theory, all though at any one time many of them will not be in operation. This may be because the college has not held elections or failed to find anybody who wants to run as student leader to operate the students union. The National Union of Students (NUS) would encourage and support student’s attempts to resurrect their students union and make them fully operational.

How to start

If you want to find your students union, or find out why your student union is not operating, you need to find the Clerk of Corporation, (college reception will be able to put you in touch). They can give you the following which you need to set up a student’s union: more information ....

Holding elections

A students union is the term for the whole student community in the college, but elections are needed to decide who will be for the leaders of the student community. Those who are elected are often called the students union executive committee. The elections need to be held so the executive can claim legitimately to represent the student community. The college corporation is legally responsible to ensure the elections are free, fair and cross campus.

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Setting up

If elected, you should prepare properly for your time as a student’s union officer, this should include:

* Obtaining the students union constitution
* Any handover information with the from the previous student leaders
* A college calendar of meeting dates
* College procedures including complaints, appeals (EMA, Disciplinary, Academic, Admissions) and Bullying & Harassment

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Doing things

Once the student leaders are elected, they should make decisions concerning what they want to say to the college and the services they want to provide in either the executive committee meeting (smaller operational decisions) or the student parliament (bigger strategic decisions). All decisions (particularly financial) should be recorded in minutes of meetings that are available to the public.

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Students union in further education colleges raises funding in two principal ways. The first, which accounts for most of the funding, is the block grant. This is a sum of money granted from college corporation funds for students union activity annually, which currently ranges from £50 to £125 000.

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What happens if the college does not co-operate?

Most colleges will be supportive of your efforts and will be glad that you have expressed an interest. However some colleges will not understand what a student’s union is and as a result may be failing to comply with the legal obligations placed upon them. Many of these will have a Students Council or Student Associations, which the college may think are different from a student unions, but actually these are the same, under the definition of section 20 1994 Education Act.

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