CUSU alleged to be pushing for the ABOLITION of the Graduate Union

All the scintillating student bureaucracy goss we know you can probably wait to hear about

bureaucracy CUSU gu

After years of “bickering” between CUSU and the Graduate Union, the university has taken advantage of the crisis after last year’s botched election to start a review of graduate representation in the university.

  • CUSU alleged to be actively pushing for the abolition of the Graduate Union 
  • Graduate Union fears replacement with a single graduate sabbatical officer
  • GU emerging from a period of turmoil, including a botched election, constitutional problems, and one incident in which a GU President, after accusations of gross incompetence, shot back by publishing allegations of racism in a leading Pakistani newspaper
  • Current GU President says he’s “shocked by the level of bickering” between CUSU and GU over the past few years

At an official university review, CUSU and the GU presented clashing submissions to the university. While the GU favours a restructuring and the addition of another sabb to the GU, CUSU is alleged to have pushed for the complete abolition of the GU and replacing it with a grad sabb position within CUSU.

Chad Allen, the Graduate Union President, speaking to The Tab, said that “there are lots of ways it could work, but we know the way it won’t work is adding a graduate sabb to CUSU”. Now that the GU is re-registered as a charity, he hopes to focus on priorities like a new website interface and re-affiliation – rather than dealing with a hostile takeover.

He said CUSU’s “enthusiasm for graduate representation is encouraging – interesting that it’s happened so recently, almost opportunistically”.

He describes CUSU as an organisation that "struggles for relevance".

He describes CUSU as an organisation that “struggles for relevancy”.

If there were a new student union built from the ground up, “it would have to have an equal number of undergraduate and graduate sabbs”, he said.

He described CUSU as a “lumbering democracy monster”, which would probably represent grad interests only poorly – although he said he thought they did a good job overall. He added that the total number of grad students is approaching the number of undergrads.

Graduates enjoying their political independence in their headquarters on Mill Lane.

The Graduate Union: One of a few things your student union probably wants to eradicate.

In his submission to the review, he said: “Initial consultation with Cambridge MCR reps highlights concern over the domination of undergraduate affairs if only one central SU were to exist.”

A merged student union is the norm across the country, including at Oxford. But Allen said that in Oxford, with this system, there was an “unshakable undergraduate focus from the rest of the sabbatical team”, leaving graduate interests poorly represented. He said the current model “offered far more value for money”.

While other student unions have supported Allen’s proposal, the President of the St Edmund’s CR, who has refused to attend GU discussions, ripped into the GU, telling The Tab: “My take on the GU is that I have no idea what it’s for … I would support the abolition of the GU and the incorporation of a GU sabb into CUSU.”

The Tab has made repeated attempts to confirm these allegations with CUSU and see its submission to the review, but President Priscilla Mensah claims she is too busy to speak to us until Friday. We hope to update you on the thoughts of your democratically elected student union head at some point in the future.

We did, however, speak to PhD students, one of whom told us they didn’t particularly care what happened: “The less they do, the better it is.”

The results of the review are expected on 15 February.


CORRECTION 26/01/16: An earlier version of this article included the statement that the “review may be the result of intensive lobbying by some CUSU sabbs since at least 2012 – including current Coordinator Jemma Stewart and well-paid General Manager Mark McCormack”. The Tab had attempted to confirm these allegations with CUSU previously, without any success. On 25/01/16, CUSU issued a statement to state “there is absolutely no truth to this claim”.