Student societies and committees have had their budgets cut by up to 97%, after the University reduced Students’ Union funding as part of Covid-19 enforced cuts.

Committees and societies will have to drastically alter their operations this year, meaning that students could miss out on opportunities previously available to them.

The SU made the difficult decision to reduce budgets after the University confirmed a 15% cut to the SU’s grant, a reduction implemented across all University faculties. 

The cut, which came despite the SU projecting a fall in turnover from £12 million to £4 million for 2020/21 due to the closure of SU outlets over lockdown, follows two years of budget freezes by the University.

Esme Constanti, President of SUTCo (Sheffield University Theatre Company) that lost 97% of its annual budget, said: “SUTCo are left unable to do anything – we can’t even afford our insurance and have had to cancel all of our shows. The rest of our funding usually comes from sponsored socials, but if we are unable to do them because of coronavirus then we’ll be left with no income at all.

“With funding we could massively improve our online activities, like recording radio plays professionally and holding online events.”

Working committees, described by the SU as “a core part of the Students’ Union”, will also struggle. As a result of receiving 8.7% of its usual annual budget, Forge Press will become an online-only publication for the foreseeable future.

SU Activities Officer Joel Kirk, said: “Finance and budgeting in an organisation of our scale is never as straightforward as diverting money savings in one area to the spending of another. Earlier in the summer the SU was in a dire financial position, and since then a significant reduction in staff costs has resulted in a saving of £2.3 million to help balance the budgets.

“Overall, budget cuts have been made across all areas of the SU, including societies’ budget which has reduced from approximately £46,000 to £21,000 this year. We’ll be working closely with the Societies Committee on managing the reduction, which recognises that some activity will be limited given the current circumstances – for example, much activity will be moved online and won’t incur the same cost as in-person events.”

He added: “The savings made in student-led activity have played a vital part in keeping the SU’s doors open, and through initiatives such as the opt-in scheme for A account grants (where more financially stable societies can choose not to accept £50), we’re finding ways to support the SU and student activity.The Student Executive Committee are going to be constantly reviewing budgets throughout the year, and the quality of opportunities for students will be maintained.”

To save further costs the SU was forced to reduce staff costs by 25% as part of a core staff restructure, with many workers at formal risk of redundancy. 

In July the SU was awarded the WhatUni Student Choice Award for Best Students’ Union in the UK for a fourth consecutive year.

A spokesperson from the university said: “As part of our efforts to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the University following the impact of Covid-19, all University departments were asked to reduce their forecast expenditure for next year, while maintaining excellent education for our students and safeguarding vital research.

“This decision was also applied to the Students Union subvention – the annual grant which it provides to the Union – but with the same expectations around prioritising supporting students.

“It’s important students know that their needs are our first priority and we are committed to providing them with a fantastic student experience, facilities and education as we welcome back onto campus in the Autumn.”

Feature image: Forge Press

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