Gonville & Caius Student's Union is one of two disaffiliated JCRs Rosie Bradbury

CUSU and the GU have ended college affiliation fees, after several years of efforts, and have replaced them with a University-wide levy for all colleges. This is intended to remove the financial burden of CUSU or GU affiliation for JCRs and MCRs, and stabilise CUSU’s funding.

The cost of CUSU or GU affiliation will be passed to college administration, who will pay an annual levy based on the size of their undergraduate body, although some colleges may reduce JCR or MCR funding to make up the shortfall. The levy will be used to cover the cost of running the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service (SUAS) as well as the CUSU sexual health scheme.

Previously, college JCRs paid a certain fee per student in order to retain CUSU or GU affiliation, which brought in £100,772 last year. CUSU President Evie Aspinall told Varsity that CUSU expects the Office of Intercollegiate Services, the University body responsible for providing support to the 31 individual colleges, to provide CUSU with £131,938 for the year 2018-19, with this money strictly reserved for the provision of SUAS.

However, both Corpus Christi JCR and Gonville & Caius Student Union (GCSU) have disaffiliated from CUSU, and have therefore previously not paid into for its services. The pattern of disaffiliation is even broader among MCRs, ten of which are disaffiliated from CUSU or the GU.

Students studying at unaffiliated colleges have still been able to access CUSU services despite their JCRs not contributing fees – which for CUSU, were traditionally set at £6.67 for undergraduates and £3.30 per graduate student. They were able to use SUAS, as well as vote in CUSU elections. The levy model essentially removes the financial benefits of disaffiliation, as JCRs and MCRs will no longer be cutting costs by not paying affiliation fees.

Aspinall told Varsity that “CUSU represents and advocates on behalf of students at every College, and does so on many issues that college representative cannot resolve alone.” She added that CUSU cannot predict the “impact the fee removal will have on disaffiliated Colleges, but we are certain that the student voice at Cambridge is stronger and more effective when collective and so we hope that disaffiliated colleges will reconsider affiliation.”

Corpus JCR has been disaffiliated from CUSU since 2010, but runs both a debate and a referendum every year on the question of reaffiliation. Last November, 82.9% of those who voted elected to remain disaffiliated. Whether the new funding model will change this is yet to be seen. Corpus JCR President Nina Jeffs told Varsity “we've got a CUSU reaffiliation vote coming up later this term, so after that ... the views of the student body will be made clear”.

In October 2017, a motion to replace affiliation fees for both CUSU and the Graduate Union (GU) with a levy was passed by CUSU Council, and only required the approval of the Levy committee, which falls under the larger Bursars’ Committee, to come into reality. A similar motion had been passed the previous year, but was less clear about how the funding would go directly towards welfare services.


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Last year, former CUSU President Daisy Eyre said “a straightforward levy is not popular among the colleges”, but that some JCR presidents became more amenable to the idea when it was explained that the levy would fund CUSU’s welfare activities.

The levy model was originally considered necessary to stabilise the students’ union’s funding during financial difficulties; however, last year, CUSU’s fortunes changed as the University offered an £80,000 boost in funding and the students’ union sought to both increase revenue and cut funding to political campaigns.

Aspinall said the “change in affiliation fee occurred as a result of both the University and colleges endorsing CUSU’s arguments for how it should be funded”, which involved the University deciding it “should fund the core activities of the Union’s representative efforts”, that “affiliation fees unfairly linked cross-Collegiate engagement with a fee”, and that “welfare services accessible to all students would ordinarily be met by the colleges”.