Staff Promo

Democracy at Imperial

Britain’s strongest student democracy

In Our Strategy 2017-20, we set ourselves the objective of having the strongest and most inclusive democracy of any students’ union in the UK.

It’s a big goal, but it’s one we’re making strides towards in a number of areas. We are proud of already having one of the highest levels of engagement in our annual election cycles – but now we are setting our sights higher, on embedding democracy and inclusive, student-led decision-making throughout our annual calendar and across our services.

A strong democracy

What does that look like in practice? We would be happy to hear your views; for us, it means:

  • A well-communicated and supported Union Council, which generates meaningful discussion and effective decisions on topics that matter to communities within the student body
  • Officer Trustees given the development opportunities and resources to achieve their high-level goals and make
  • Supporting Constituent Unions to be effective and strategic in serving their membership and working in partnership with their respective faculties and departments
  • Ensuring that our Clubs, Societies & Projects are kept in long-term health and vitality by encouraging genuine student leadership through contested elections and effective support

An inclusive democracy

Imperial is a community diverse in nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, neurodivergence and more. We believe that to be an effective organisation, our elected officers should be reflective of our membership – but that is not always the case.

When it comes to inclusivity, we are asking ourselves the difficult questions – such as

  • Are our elected officers and decision-making bodies representative of the demographics of our membership, in terms of ethnicity, gender, nationality and other groups?
  • Are our activities, events and services genuinely accessible to members with disabilities or complex needs?
  • Are we offering activities, events and services that meet the various needs of communities within our membership – such as students of faith, students at campuses other than South Kensington, or our 9,000+ Postgraduate members?
  • Are we eliminating unconscious bias in our planning and service delivery, and are we communicating in accessible ways through a diversity of channels?

These projects are not limited to one Officer Trustee or team, but span multiple departments and directorates of Imperial College Union. Here are a few of the flagship projects that are currently in progress under the banner of building a stronger democracy at Imperial College Union.

Governance Review

In November 2012, our Constitution & Bye-laws were approved by the new Board of Trustees, Union Council and College Council; since then, they have provided the legal framework for Imperial College Union, setting out its governance, powers and purpose.

As a charitable organisation, good practice suggests that we should review our Constitution every five years, and we are taking that opportunity to update and streamline our Constitution & Bye-laws to be fit for purpose through to 2023 and beyond.

The four main areas of focus are:

  • Exploring how we can evolve or reform Union Council to be more representative of the membership and more effective in creating meaningful change
  • Developing our Constituent Unions through greater support for strategic planning
  • Updating our discipline practices to fit with new College procedures
  • Devolving content from the Constitution to the Bye-laws to give us the correct amount of flexibility to adapt our processes as our activities and members change

These proposals are being actively discussed by the Union President with Constituent Union leaders and other senior student volunteers, as well as with our Board of Trustees.

For more information on the Governance Review, contact Chippy Compton, your Union President.

Constituent Union Support

Our Constituent Unions are historic and invaluable components of Imperial College Union, providing events and representation for their members while upholding traditions and mascots that can date back over a century.

To enable Constituent Union leaders and committees to have a bigger positive impact on their members, we have invested more time and resource than ever before in giving them direct support in developing strategic plans. We believe that Constituent Unions have the potential to become essential partners to Faculties and Departments, continually improving the academic and social experience of their members.

At present, Constituent Unions have achieved the following:

  • The Graduate Students’ Union has published the GSU Strategy, which is shaping the views and plans of the Graduate School and Education Office
  • The ICSM Students’ Union is consulting on a near-complete ICSMSU Strategy which is already influencing the School of Medicine’s planning
  • The Royal College of Science Union is consulting on a draft RCSU Strategy and Values
  • The City & Guilds College Union is working on a draft CGCU Strategy
  • The Royal School of Mines Union is pivoting towards offering more wellbeing support and activities for its members, as well as considering an RSMU Strategy
  • All five of those Constituent Unions have reformed their Committees to offer more capacity
  • All five of those Constituent Unions have passed a new Constitution
  • Silwood Union will be offered extra support in 2018/19 once their new Committee is elected.

For more information on Constituent Union Support, contact Chippy Compton, your Union President.

Liberation Review

In the summer of 2017, we commissioned Pari Dhillon - a consultant with expertise in liberation and student campaigning – to review how Imperial College Union supported its Liberation & Community Officers, the students elected to represent the diverse communities within the Imperial student body.

Pari met with a wide range of students and staff, including past & present Liberation and Welfare Officers as well as focus groups of students from underrepresented communities. The outcome was the Liberation Review, which contained a wide-ranging set of recommendations and challenges for Imperial College Union. These recommendations were received by the Deputy President (Welfare), the current Liberation Officers and the Education & Welfare Team, who have generated a comprehensive Liberation Action Plan which is guiding their work and planning for 2018/19.

For more information on the Liberation Review, contact Fintan O’Connor, your Deputy President (Welfare).

Officer Trustee Communication

We have launched new Officer Trustee pages that set out their highest priorities for the year, and which allow members to keep track of their progress through updates and their Council Report.

You can read about the work of each Officer Trustee on their individual pages:

Others

  • We have employed our first Democracy Coordinator, a member of staff who will spend three days a week focused on elections, Constituent Unions and Union Council
  • Our Be Active strategy, created in partnership with Sport Imperial, sets out our goals around disability sport and accessibility