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Student unions hit hard as membership drops

TT/The Local · 27 Sep 2010, 14:05

Published: 27 Sep 2010 14:05 GMT+02:00

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Several student unions have seen their budgets fall by half since the abolition of mandatory fees, resulting in the scrapping of a number of their activities, newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported on Monday.

Many unions receive financial support from their universities or colleges in order to continue operations since the abolition of mandatory membership.

As a result, unions have become depend on the universities, which is a problem, said Beatrice Högå, chairwoman of the Swedish National Union of Students (Sveriges Förenade Studentkårer, SFS). The organisation's mandate includes monitoring the rights of students and ensuring that instruction remains at a high quality.

"We will now scrutinise the educational institutions while receiving financial support from them at the same time. This is something that threatens independence. State subsidies are unfortunately not enough to carry out a quality job," she said.

As a result, the unions are unable to spend as much time addressing student questions when they have to focus on recruiting members, according to Högå. However, the organization has not taken a position demanding the reimposition of mandatory student union membership.

"We think that the abolition should have been done in a more responsible way. We needed a longer adjustment period to ensure the influence of students continues to work. That is what we are defending," said Högå.

According to Minister for Higher Education and Research Tobias Krantz, the abolition of compulsory membership is an important matter of principle.

"Students should have freedom of association. They have the right to decide for themselves whether they want to join a student union or not. In addition, I am convinced that the power of student influence and legitimacy will increase if it is voluntary and not through coercion," he said.

As a result, the unions now have to find new ways to attract members, said Krantz.

"When I travel around the country's universities and colleges, I see that many are working creatively and are engaged in developing activities and attracting more members voluntarily. Many are positive to this and want to find new solutions," he said.

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"The unions must think about how they can be more attractive to students and others who can give money to them," he added.

He rejected, although not entirely, the possibility of increasing state funding for student unions.

"We have just implemented the reform, so obviously we will follow developments closely," he said.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:32 September 27, 2010 by grantike
its catching up with them. i wonder what they do with all the money they get from the members that even pay.the studentpub,overpriced materials they sell in thier respective offices.now they have to make use of their ends now.340kr was such a large amount for students to pay every term.100kr for non-student to pub and 50 for members.its such a large money they generate every week.having in mind that most workers work voluntary there.just a fact from a student i know well.
16:20 September 27, 2010 by Liquidmonkey
been at the uni in örebro for 1 year and never saw once what the union did for me or students for that matter.

i'm happy the fee is gone.
16:47 September 27, 2010 by ringorm
Dont feel like paying 400:- so that some frat boys can spend my money on cheap booze.
17:16 September 27, 2010 by just a question
damn! It was abolished? I didn't know and I paid this year as usual!
17:37 September 27, 2010 by lordsandwich
Well if they provided value for money then more students would have chosen to pay, it is as simple as that. There should absolutely no subsidies for these institutions which are often used to jumpstart their leaders' political careers rather than improve students' lives.
18:16 September 27, 2010 by dobermann
It seems that even Sweden has the same problem as my country..Student organisations get a lot of money, but where they spend all the money?..
18:17 September 27, 2010 by crofab
The student union never did anything useful for me. I am glad the mandatory fees were abolished.
18:28 September 27, 2010 by tuerd1982
@ crofab

I agree with you.
18:42 September 27, 2010 by edman
BUt we should have the union card to get discounts on SJ/SAS/SL tickets!!
00:02 September 28, 2010 by Artificial Intelligence
Student union membership fee abolished?......like seriously? How come Jönköping University hasn't abolished theirs? I think they should be reported because they have been spamming my sisters mail box because she hasn't paid for this semmester:-( Which means they just wanna extort from the students for their own personal use, because I see no reason they should still be collecting money from students while other Uni's have stopped.
00:15 September 28, 2010 by muntazir
Its still mandatory at Chalmers.
01:29 September 28, 2010 by fatehs
Yes, I think it's still mandatory in Chalmers! The invoice had the same information as before, like" you need to have your student card at exams" ...

To be honest, if it wasn't mandatory to have it at exams, I've been never paid the 250:- fee!
01:58 September 28, 2010 by Liamt
The junior Libs (conservatives) did this to Australian universities back in the 1990s. Same issues, same complaints from both sides of politics about the costs/benefits of compulsory membership.

The unions had less money as a result (who pays for something they don't have to?) but voluntary membership was more a bellwether for the broader society: there was a hunger for a user-pays society as WWII "baby boomers" hit 50 years.

After about 5 years, thanks to bigger fed gov cuts to university funding -- compensated for by foreign $tudents, including $wedes - "grunge" and hippy was dead, replaced by polo-shirt clad house-music kids.

God-knows whether this was produced a net benefit to society, but I do know that in my early 20s I liked university without having its population skewed by a policy which weeded out the poor.
04:34 September 28, 2010 by skimysta
As a result of repealing mandatory union fees, the power and independence of student unions to represent the rights of students and their interests over educational programs and university regulations will be greatly diminished. Student unions will now face bureaucratic and financial constraints which will, in the long run, diminish their significance in ensuring the university remains democratic freely accessible institution for learning and not an arena for corporate development and social inequity...
08:54 September 28, 2010 by samwise
man, how much I hated the mandatory student union fees when I was in college. Good for Sweden.
13:33 September 28, 2010 by arslan11
The one's who need the power and independence of "Swedish student unions" to represent the rights of students and their interests should pay the fee...

It never did anything good for foreign students.. All swedish representatives used to spoil funds within themselves. Even, when a foreign student won union election via open voting at BTH in 2009, he was denied to handover charge by swedish students and management by claiming that understanding Swedish is necessary for president and VP (they didnt knew this clause during election campaign as they never expected foreigner to win).. Thanks God, we are releived of it..

Still they dream that people will come here like US and UK after paying huge amount of tuition fee
08:43 October 2, 2010 by farooqkifayat
I voted for that guy. LOLz only because he was a fellow country man.

I was shocked later when he could not speak English too. :)

But even then i feel the student union should have respected our votes.Even if we were grossly mistaken.

After hearing his speech we found out he wanted to introduce curry in the cafeteria and stop all other food.:)

Stop the serving of alcohol in the student pub.:)

He was a good guy.Its better for him that he completes his degree on time.
00:25 October 4, 2010 by itzsmz
Agree with edman

...and the union membership is required too before we can sign an agreement with SSSB isn't it? LOL
05:20 October 28, 2010 by Makaveli
This freaking fee serves no purpose and i suggest only the Swedish students should be forced to pay the fee, because it is clearly meant for them.
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