Never mind the students – London Union’s closure marks the end of a musical era

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The University of London Union, for decades a centre of student radicalism, is to be dissolved after college leaders ruled it has become obsolete.

The ULU, Europe’s largest student union, representing 120,000 people, no longer “made sense” because the various colleges of the University of London have their own unions, according to a review of ULU’s services.

The union’s democratic function will be dissolved, and its central London building, which over the years has hosted large demonstrations as well as being the venue for early gigs by bands such as the Sex Pistols, will become a centrally managed student centre with a swimming pool, fitness centre, shops, cafes and bars.

The ULU was founded in 1921 and moved to its current Malet Street headquarters in 1957. The building served as a rallying point for marches during 2010’s student protests.

The changes, which are set to come into effect in July next year, will be resisted.  ULU’s president, Michael Chessum, said: “I honestly can’t imagine a situation where students who have been some of the most radical, and ULU having been such a space for that radicalisation, will simply surrender the building to management.”

College leaders say fewer than 3,000 of ULU’s 120,000 students voted in the last university-wide elections, and students were better represented by college-level unions. “This is not about switching money away from students, rather it is addressing the federal structure that duplicates a lot of the services already provided by student unions,” Paul Webley, director of Soas, who led the review, told Times Higher Education.