Kerry Sclater


09 October 2015 12:04

Upgrading your Students’ Union: What is the Democracy Review?

You may have heard that we are preparing a series of reviews and upgrades to the Students’ Union, to make sure we are continually improving. A massive part of this this year is the Democracy Review, which will certainly have a huge impact on your time here.


What is it?

This year we are upgrading our decision making bodies to make sure they are simple; engaging; empowered to make positive change; and reflective of our diverse student body. Currently, we have a structure called Union Council, which is a decision making body attended by over 60 elected student representatives. At Union Council we discuss ideas and pass policies to make important changes to the Union.

Why are we doing it?

At the moment, Union Council is a little complicated and hard to access for a large proportion of students, and therefore it is not truly representative of the student body. I want to make our democratic structures easier and more exciting to get involved in, so more people are empowered to make the changes they want. The project has been born from lots of feedback from students over the years, as well as Policy 1415P22 which was passed at Union Council in May this year.

What are the stages?

Research – We’ve been looking at what other Union’s do, and trying to highlight some of their most successful elements. With such a wide range of democratic structures out there, we’ve picked a range of different elements to put to the test.

Student Consultation– This will form the heart of the process, because there’s no point us putting in place a new structure if it’s not what students want! We’ve already launched a short survey with over 330 participants, and throughout the process we will also be surveying trial participants; having focus groups; and having another survey.

tap choose change

Look out for the Tap Choose Change stall around campus every Thursday to vote on the things that matter to you!


  • 3 forums – Better Union, University and Southampton, w/c 26th October
  • Tap Choose Change stall 3 ideas w/c 26th October
  • Online referendum w/c 26th October
  • Scrutiny panel – late November
  • Union Question Time: Public event in The Bridge, late November
  • Union Council with a jury of randomly selected students- December
  • You Make Change (ongoing) – you can submit ideas now at

 (these are subject to approval from Democracy Zone Committee)

Making decisions

Once we have gone through the complete process of trials, consultation, and evaluation, we will take our proposed changes to Union Council to approve, and if the change affects our articles and memorandum (the documents which make us exist basically), we’ll also go to University Council and an Annual General Meeting.

What are the challenges?

I admit this is quite a large project, with changes that will have important consequences on the whole of our student body. So, myself and the project team are taking every step we can to come out with as informed a decision as possible. Some of the difficulties we may encounter include making sure we have a wide enough range of different, and adaptable, structures to trial. Also, we are very conscious that we will have to implement a fair and consistent measure of success so we can comprehensively evaluate each trial.

What do we hope is the outcome?

At this stage its impossible to say which structure- or hybrid of structures- we may come out with, but our overall aims are to develop:

  • A full-functioning democratic structure that is simple, easy to understand and effective
  • Increased student engagement in decision-making
  • Visible change being facilitated through student decision-making


If you have any questions about the project email me at

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