CUSU funding crisis prompts cuts for 2017-18

Hettie O'Brien 1 May 2017

In a document released last night, CUSU revealed it is facing a significant funding crisis, leading it to contemplate widespread cuts over a period of several years.

CUSU’s recent draft budget proposal for 2017-18 foresees an end of year deficit amounting to £75,888. The budget also predicted that CUSU’s charity reserves would be cut significantly, falling from £169,443 to £93,555. 

While CUSU faced similar cash crises in 2015 and 2016, it cites the re-negotiation of a contract with an external publisher as the main reason for this significant deficit.

CUSU has also faced financial problems from external publishing contracts in the past. Financial losses following its 2015 Guide to Excellence publication led to what the Committee referred to as a “significant hole” in CUSU finances.

Despite this, the draft budget indicates that CUSU does not plan to scrap these publications, explaining that “for many years CUSU has relied heavily on income from external publications to meet levels of expenditure necessary to fulfil its charitable objectives”.

The draft budget proposes introducing a “new careers project” of careers-related publications “over the next 3 years, with a view to operating a loss-making budget initially, but recovering that loss over time)”.

At the first Council of Easter term this evening, attendants will have the opportunity to discuss the draft budget and its proposed cost-saving solutions to CUSU’s financial deficit.

A number of potential solutions have been outlined in the draft budget. These include issues relating to NUS affiliation, such as revising the estimation of the NUS Affiliation Fee, moving away from the costly NUS website platform in favour of a cheaper and more basic alternative, and increasing sales of NUS Extra cards by offering them to Post Docs and University staff.

Other proposed measures include reducing CUSU spending on fundraising, services and business teams, on training and development budgets for personnel, and on the Council Free Budget for financially supporting motions.

In addition, the draft budget proposes that a revision of Freshers' Fair spending might be on the table, in the hope of balancing revenues with expenses. The document also suggests that CUSU could use cheaper digital means for promoting itself to new students, removing a budget for promotions.

The draft budget states: “Faced with a significant reducing in funding, the Board of Trustees has decided to take steps to reduce levels of expenditure whilst putting a plan in place to proactively address the charity’s financial difficulties. It is possible that part of this plan will involve looking to the University for financial assistance over the next few years.”

It adds that University assistance may be required in addition to the proposed cuts if CUSU is to break even and to maintain its current staffing levels.