Majority of CUSU budget spent on staff and office, event reveals

Catherine Lally 7 November 2017

On Monday evening, CUSU President Daisy Eyre held a talk providing a breakdown of the organisation’s finances. This follows controversy surrounding CUSU’s finances, after its draft budget proposal in May revealed that it was predicted to run a deficit of £75,888 by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Eyre began by explaining how CUSU funds its activities: its largest source of funding comes from the University (at more than £250 thousand), followed by College affiliation fees (at around £100,000), and its business activities. CUSU is looking to convert its affiliation fee to a levy, to avoid a loss of income associated with Colleges potentially disaffiliating from CUSU. The organisation’s smaller revenue streams include Access funding from the Admissions Service, its Services (e.g. providing bike lights), and the Graduate Union Student Union Advice Services (SUAS). 

The CUSU business team was presented as effective, with Eyre emphasising that the business team made 67% more revenue from sponsorship than the average Student Union nationwide. Eyre also said that the CUSU team was nearly working at full capacity, as she feels it has a ‘modestly-sized team for the breadth of its work.'

Eyre also detailed how the CUSU budget was spent – with the vast majority going towards staff and the office (£530,131), and 61% of this being provided by the University. It also spends £54,335 on activity costs like the shadowing scheme, and student-led teaching awards.

The spending of £8,000 on the running of the CUSU website was questioned, with Eyre replying that this is simply how much it costs to run, but agreed that it it did not reflect its less-than stellar quality, and is something that could be looked into. 

There was a focus on how CUSU funding has changed over the years, as it has seen a large rise in funding from the University, but a real drop in business revenue. The talk was live-streamed and Eyre avoided a discussion of CUSU’s fallout with St. James’s House. 

Looking to the future, Eyre said that CUSU needs to ask the university to provide better funding, stressing that the university has never funded CUSU properly and so it can no longer mitigate this through its own income. In order to achieve this, Eyre indicated that the support of Cambridge students in the CUSU bid to receive more funding was essential. There are also plans for a careers project, but it was noted that this would not make as much money as the St James's scheme and so there would still be a shortfall. 

The need to restructure the organisation of the Union, without the loss of staff jobs was also outlined. When repeatedly questioned over the matter, Eyre stated that, "those kind of questions are inappropriate at this point", and that, "we do a really really good job of making enough money to keep going". The livestream was also turned off by Eyre when questions started to become too "specific", over matters such as which specific staff positions might be affected, and the issues surrounding the St James's House scheme. 

When questioned over St James's House, Eyre stressed how the decision to drop the scheme was not an independent one made by either herself or the previous CUSU President, Amatey Doku, but as a source of money it was becoming increasingly unreliable.

Concluding the talk, Eyre stated that the main point she wanted students to take away from it, is that funding for CUSU does not 'go into a black hole', it does not have an issue with efficiency, and it is often unfairly demonised.