London students vow to fight ULU closure


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The Independent Online

Students across London have pledged to fight the closure of the University of London Union (ULU) after the University Council voted for it to shut down this morning.

The decision comes after the publication earlier this week of a University-commissioned review which recommended the closure of ULU from summer 2014. The union’s building will be turned into a ‘student services centre’ run by the University.

Representing more than 120,000 students, ULU is the only London-wide representation that students have. However, the decision is part of a broader plan to create a new pan-London union.

The review recommends that ULU in its current form ceases in the summer of 2014. The services that students most value will be retained, including the swimming pool, gym, shops, cafes, bars, venues, and the administrative support for inter-collegiate sporting events.

ULU president Michael Chessum has drawn attention to the unfair process that resulted in the move.

“This decision is totally illegitimate and will have a majorly negative impact on student life and representation in London,” said Chessum.

“No student sat on the review panel, no student got a vote on the decision, and student responses have been ignored or brushed aside throughout.

“It’s not that we won’t go down without a fight – we simply won’t go down.”

ULU’s closure will also impact on the funding of its clubs and societies.

In a letter, former president of the ULU fencing club Graham Miles said, “Many [students] remain in touch long after graduation, forming an informal global network of contacts and friends that is hugely beneficial to all members of the club, new or old.

“Marriages, careers and lifelong friendships have been forged from this network. ULU societies are uniquely placed to provide such a network because they bring together people from such varied backgrounds, a breath of fresh air for students attending small specialist colleges.”

A spokesman for the university insisted that the report was legitimate.

He said: "There are 120,000 students who need representation from ULU, and given their historically low electoral engagement – around two per cent – the only way we could canvas opinion was to canvas each of the unions of each member college separately.

"Students’ views were represented at every stage, and were reflected without bias or inaccuracy in both the report and its recommendations. We stand by the accuracy of the review.

"Overall, opinions were mixed but there was more support for maintaining federal buildings and facilities than for having a political and campaigning body."

Protesters will be backed by ULU, which is planning to set up a London-wide student assembly.