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Supporting Students' Unions governance

The effective governance of students’ unions is equally as important to the success of higher education and delivery for students as that of institutions themselves.

As separate legal entities, charities, operating under the Education Act 1994, Charities Act 2011 and in some cases the Companies Act 2006 there is much that makes their governance complex.

The Education Act 1994 requires that the Governing Body takes fair and reasonable steps to ensure that students’ union governance, finance and democratic processes are effective, resulting in a Code of Practice that defines this relationship.

Some of the key challenges include working in a member-led environment, ensuring pursuit of charitable objectives for their members as beneficiaries, having a high turnover of sabbatical officers and student trustees and balancing the need to be financially robust and risk aware organisations whilst ensuring progression and inclusivity of their members.

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We recently commissioned Advance HE to undertake two external governance reviews at the University, including a collaborative piece of work with the trustees of our Students’ Union on the SU’s governance arrangements. The team at Advance HE demonstrated an extensive knowledge of governance within the UK higher education sector, and their professional, flexible and inclusive approach ensured that the projects were delivered on time and on budget, and meeting the agreed scope in full. The final reports and recommendations were presented clearly and easy for the governing body to engage with. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Advance HE again.

Bryn Morris, Registrar and Secretary, University of Essex

Working with Advance HE on our governance review has been an absolute pleasure. They have a comprehensive understanding of the democratic and governance workings of Students’ Unions, which meant that we did not have to spend time explaining our structures to them. As we were their first SU client we were able to structure the work with them that will definitely benefit any other SU who works with them in the future. I would absolutely work with them in the future on similar projects.

Craig Stephens, Chief Executive, University of Essex Students' Union

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