Student Central postpones decision to cut student socs

Earlier this week, University of London’s Collegiate Council met to discuss a proposal “to cease the operation of clubs and societies through Student Central.” The council has agreed to postpone its decision-making until December 2020.

Professor Wendy Thompson CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, said in a statement: “Postponing this decision will provide time for a working group … to explore options for continuing the provision of intercollegiate student activities.”

The group will comprise the university, member institutions, and student and alumni representatives.

Thompson explained that “members of the council highlighted the value of these clubs and societies in supporting the wellbeing of students in London.”

She added, “it was appreciated that the activities add value especially to the experience of students at smaller institutions.”

She further expressed gratitude towards those who raised “awareness of the strong feelings” about intercollegiate sports and activities.

A petition by University of London Student Clubs and Societies remains open, calling for the protection of these clubs.

This week, the group thanked its supporters: “We look forward to working in partnership with the university towards a sustainable future together.”

All change at Student Central?

Thompson has pledged a “fresh new direction” for intercollegiate clubs and societies. She explained that this restructure is grounded in declining membership of these clubs “for some years.”

The number of societies at Student Central appears to have declined for some time, too. A version of the Student Central website on the Wayback Machine from October 2015 lists 41 societies. On July 5, 2020, the website listed 30. Societies which are not listed this year include Debate, Hip-Hop, LGBT, and Water Polo.

A 2014 decision saw the University of London Union announce the closure of London Student. More than 50 journalists signed a letter published in The Guardian slamming the decision as an “affront to free speech.” London Student now operates as an independent students’ cooperative.

The unmade decisions this year are concerning for student society members.

University of London Symphony Orchestra announced the restructure to its social media followers on July 1, proclaiming a “dark, dark day.”

The Canoe Polo Society said on June 30 that “the existence and imminent future of our club is under threat.” Responding to news that a decision will be made in December, the society thanked its supporters: “We look forward to working with the university to cement a long-term sustainable future relationship.”

On July 2, London University Swimming Team posted to Facebook: “the level of support has been truly humbling. Hopefully we can continue to fight this outrageously short sighted move by the UoL committee!”

UL Dancesport also thanked supporters for their “signatures, tear-jerking testimonials and … positive faith.”

Student Central is currently not recognising any new activities while the restructure is ongoing. Its website says: “you will be able to find out everything you need to know about setting one up here once we have the governance structure sorted.”

Will is London Student's Features Editor. He has recently completed a BA History at SOAS, and you might find him hiding in a library around Bloomsbury.

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