The majority of participants in a referendum held by the University of London Union (ULU) have voted against university management plans to scrap the union.

86% of the 4,545 students who took part in the referendum, which closed on 7 February, voted ‘yes’ to the question “Should ULU’s building, activities and campaigns continue to be run democratically by students?”

University of London’s (UoL) current plans involve closing the democratic representation functions of the union with management taking over its current facilities in order to create a ‘New Student Centre’.

Heythrop College and Goldsmiths have yet to contribute their results due to “political” and logistical issues, but both are expected to do so at a later date.

Adrian Smith, UoL’s vice-chancellor, was principal at Queen Mary in 2005 when the the possibility of absorbing the students’ union into the college as a department was considered.

Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said the result proved that proposals to abolish the union have “no legitimacy”.
“Any notion that the university’s plans had any sort of public support are now out the window,” he said.

Shelly Asquith, chair of National Union of Students London said: “It is clear that students are rejecting the university’s proposals, and the University of London must respect that.”

But UoL said they were standing by the conclusions of their own review and criticised the referendum on the grounds that those who voted were “only a tiny minority, just 3.75% of our total student population.”

However, just 826 students – 0.6% of the student body – responded to the university’s own survey on the student centre plans late last year.

A university spokesperson insisted the survey and referendum were “two completely different things” and said the survey was to see students’ opinions and would not “be used directly to create policy.”

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 8 (10/03/2014)