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Handbook for student unions

Guide for student activists
3 min read
Last update: Feb 23, 2023

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about student unions. It will explain what student unions are, what they do, and how they can benefit you as a student.

A student union is an organization that represents students at a college or university. Student unions provide a variety of services to students, including social and cultural activities, advocacy, and support. Student unions are also a great way to get involved in your community and make new friends.

Some challenges that student unions may face include a lack of funding, a lack of engagement from students, and a lack of cooperation from the administration.

Action ideas

Host a "solidarity training" event: This could be a public event where student union members and supporters come together to learn skills and strategies for building power and solidarity within the student movement. This could include training in organizing, negotiating, lobbying, and other skills that can help student unions be more effective in their campaigns.

Organize a "class strike": This is a tactic where students refuse to attend classes in order to put pressure on their school and to demand better education, resources, and conditions. A well-organized and well-executed class strike can be a powerful tool for building power and winning concessions from school administrators.

Host a "teach-in": This is a tactic where activists come together to educate and engage with the public about a particular issue or campaign. For a student union campaign, this could involve hosting a public event where student union members and experts share information and insights about the importance of student rights and the challenges facing the education system.

Create a "guerrilla theater" performance: This is a tactic where activists use performance art and theater to draw attention to their cause and engage with the public. For a student union campaign, this could involve creating a short play or skit that portrays the struggles and challenges faced by students, and using it to educate and engage with the public.


What are student unions?

Student unions are organizations that represent students at a school or college. Their goals are to make sure that students have a voice in decision-making, to provide services and support for students, and to promote student interests.

How do I start a student union?

The process for starting a student union can vary depending on the school and the country in which the school is located. However, some tips for starting a student union may include talking to the school administration to see if they are supportive of the idea, finding other students who are interested in starting a union, and writing a constitution or set of bylaws for the student union. Additionally, it may be helpful to research other student unions to see how they are structured and what kinds of activities they engage in.

Are student unions effective?

Student unions can help to campaign for better housing for students, both in terms of quality and affordability. This can help to improve the overall student experience and make it easier for students to find accommodation that meets their needs.

They can work to raise awareness of the issue of student debt and the options available to help students manage their debt. This can include providing information on scholarships and bursaries, as well as working with the university to negotiate better terms for student loans.

Finally, student unions can provide a vital role in representing the interests of students to the university, government and other external bodies. This can help to ensure that students have a strong voice in decision-making that affects them, and that their rights and needs are taken into account. For example, the student union can try to force the school administration to divest from fossil fuel companies, as young people are most impacted by the climate crisis.

How do I join a student union?

Most student unions have an easy process for joining. The first step is usually to fill out a short form and pay a small fee. Some unions may require you to attend an orientation or meet certain eligibility requirements.

External resources


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