Students' unions in the UK

Last modified: 07 February 2020

Find out about students' unions at Fresher’s Fair. This is often the week before classes start when you can find out about all the things that are happening in the student union and join in many of the activities to help you settle in to your new life.

Students' unions are independent. Students’ Unions in the UK are student-focussed and student-led.  You will have a chance to vote to elect student representatives or stand for election yourself.  They are independent of the university or college where you are studying. 

Students' unions are great places to make friends.  They usually have good social spaces (not just a student bar) and they run many (often hundreds) of societies from sports to entreprenerial skills to skiing.  It’s a great way to get to know  your peers outside the classroom.  In addition, many employers look at the extra-curricular activities that you engaged in during your studies.

A chance to volunteer.  Many unions offer volunteering  opportunities where you can learn lots of new skills while meeting new  people – often making links with the local community.  (If you have a student visa – do check with the union or the institution that you are permitted to volunteer.)

Get help with problems.  Student Unions can take up issues with the institution on behalf of students. This could mean extending the library opening hours or it might mean representing you at an academic appeal.  Find out what advice and support is available at your union.

The National Union of Students. Many Students' unions are also members of the UK-wide NUS representing over 7 million UK-based students. 


Check out the NUS video on what students' unions can do for you:

Note that the SU can represent you to your institution and the video states that your union can help you ‘swap courses’ but remember there are restrictions on students who are studying in the UK with a Tier 4 visa.  It is not usually possible to change to a different course after you have obtained your visa to study in the UK.  You must seek immigration advice about this from your institution.