Cambridge University Student Union president, Daisy EyreNoah Froud

The first big issue facing Daisy Eyre is the shortfall in CUSU’s funding, after the student union reported a £75,000 annual loss. “It definitely is one of the things that keeps me awake at night,” she says.

“CUSU funding does concern me, we are the least funded student union in the country and in five years’ time I would hope that CUSU was in a completely different position.”

She seems optimistic that progress can be made though, “I’m fairly confident we’re going to succeed in getting a block grant from the university.” Whilst a block grant does not mean more funds it does mean that the student union has greater flexibility in how it spends funds. The lack of a block grant has been seen as a consistent obstacle for CUSU as it means all the funding it receives from the university is tied to particular areas. As Eyre tells me, “it’s all about liquidity and flexibility, being able to move money from one pot to another if the need comes about.”

“I’m also fairly confident we’ll get enough funding to continue what we’re doing at the moment.” This will come as good news to The Cambridge Student, autonomous campaigns and sabbatical officers who are already running on minimal funding.

Eyre has another trick up her sleeve too, by working with the careers service to create a career guide she hopes fill the gap left by the failure of the publication contract with St. James’s House. “With that we should be able to replace the St. James’ House funding with funding that is self-sufficient, rather than relying on this outside organisation that are totally unreliable and also just not in line with how we as CUSU see ourselves.”

She adds to this, noting the nature of St. James’s publications, “They’re totally alienated from how students at Cambridge see themselves and how CUSU wants to see ourselves so I’m really glad we’re moving away from it.”

“I did feel over the course of last year it became a rubber-stamping institution”

I ask what she would ask the incoming vice-chancellor Stephen Toope to do if she could ask for anything, “Something to do with widening participation, but also support for intermitting students outside of university. It doesn’t have to be counselling support, but it’s so uneven between colleges, some colleges don’t notify their intermitting students when the ballot happens”

Eyre also has big plans for how CUSU Council works, she’s proposing a range of reforms. “I did feel over the course of last year it became a stamping institution, policy would get waved through and you would just rubber stamp it.” Her reforms hope to change this, “they’re all about students feeling council is useful and they have a level of ownership over CUSU Council.”

First, “We’re trying to institute a distinction between policy, which is this long-term ongoing stuff, and action, which will be the short-term things that can go off the books once they’ve been done.”

“What most student unions have is a defined body of say 50 polices that they are mandated to campaign on and they can divide those policies up between the sabbatical officers.”

“MCR and JCR presidents don’t feel able to use CUSU council as a way to make change”

The second reform involves the way in which officers and campaigns report to Council, Eyre sees the current system of written bullet points as deterring engagement with both officers and autonomous campaigns. “The biggest issue is that they’re not involved with the council and the democratic running of the organisation.”

“It’s almost that they’re not able to engage because it’s not a helpful or useful space for them but also the officers. I really don’t believe from those bullet point students get any kind of real impression of what CUSU does.

“For me those bullet points are practically meaningless because they’re so reductive of what people are working on and people don’t read them, so the solution is to have verbal updates as routine.”  

On top of this there are considerations as to having a roving college council, at least once a term, and making the new policy proposals pass over two councils, with the first for discussion and the second for a vote. “At the moment you have this thing where you have to think on your feet to come up with amendments and then you end up with it being a bit confusing and potentially not very effective.”

Eyre’s hope is that the reforms will empower the campaigns as well JCR and MCR. “MCR and JCR presidents don’t feel able to use CUSU council as a way to make change within their college or as a way to link up with other collegiate officers and CUSU’s not able to use CUSU council to disseminate information amongst the colleges.”

I ask Eyre what she’d say at to a college considering disaffiliating from CUSU. She rapidly reels off a list of things CUSU does spanning areas as diverse as sexual health supplies and supervisor training. “We do so much, there is honestly not enough time in the day.”

“I used to be the JCR president and I think that JCRs do so much and have a great ability to make change within a college. However, having been a JCR president, there is a clear limit to what you can achieve.”


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Some of most important work goes on behind the scenes though. “The number of small changes that you make that students would never know about,” is the most surprising thing she’s found in her role.

The ever-upbeat Eyre finishes, “I’m looking forward to the disaffiliation debates if they come up”

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