CUSU ranks sixth from bottom in student survey
Adam Clarke investigates why we're so dissatisfied with them
by Adam Clarke
Friday 12th October 2012, 12:45 BST
The Cambridge University Students’ Union has one of the worst satisfaction ratings of any student union in the country according to the results of the annual National Student Survey.
Only 46% of finalists surveyed said they were satisfied with CUSU, ranking it sixth from bottom in the survey. Even further down the rankings was Oxford University Students’ Union, in joint last place in the country with a satisfaction rate of 39%.
Rosalyn Old, CUSU President, released a statement welcoming “the exposure of our students’ union satisfaction score in the National Student Survey” and suggesting that students have an “inconclusive” view of student union services due to the provision of services via college common rooms.
The statement said “CUSU have long campaigned to the University for a better social space and greater funding to improve our services; to help us communicate and involve more students; and to employ more staff to support and resource our active student groups”. However, it defended CUSU’s record on issues of Access and support for students in the absence of a block grant from the University.
The results contrasted poorly against a 92% satisfaction rate with students’ courses at Cambridge. This was the first year that satisfaction with student unions has been asked by the National Student Survey and the results were generally underwhelming. The University of Sheffield’s Student Union performed best, with a 95% satisfaction rate, but it was the exception as on average only 66% of students were satisfied with their student union. A further 24% were ambivalent.
Gerard Tully, former President of CUSU, argued in the Guardian that student unions at collegiate universities were at a disadvantage in such surveys. However, other unions with collegiate structures such as Durham (56%) and York (61%) outperformed CUSU. The results are likely to again raise doubts as to CUSU’s ability to communicate its role to students, a key factor in the decision of Corpus Christi’s JCR to disaffiliate from CUSU two years ago.
The National Student Survey has been criticised as being unrepresentative of the Cambridge experience and CUSU has previously boycotted the survey. Since the publication of the survey results, CUSU has launched its own student survey in an attempt to gauge awareness and understanding of CUSU’s activities. A third year from Downing told Varsity that “since Cambridge is collegiate and colleges have their own JCR to provide student services, it is unsurprising that CUSU get a bad press because the nature of their activities at the very least appears not to be directly relevant to student life.”
The role of the JCR was also seen to be important by a second year at Downing, who believes that “with all the JCRs it is understandable that many see CUSU as slightly superfluous to their university experience. However, when it comes to procedures such as Access, CUSU comes into it’s own.”
However, a second year at Churchill stressed the unique Cambridge lifestyle: “I’m not at all surprised by this result. In a university as hectic as Cambridge, with deadlines, displeased DOSs and not a lot of respite, CUSU can only foster a weak relationship with students. It can’t hope to achieve a high level of satisfaction if it doesn’t play as significant a role in students’ lives as at other universities.”
The results of the National Students Survey are accessible for the first time via the website Unistats, although they are not presented in a league table format.