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A students' union, students' council, student government, free student union, student senate, students' association, guild of students, or government of student body is a student organization present in many colleges, universities, and high schools. In higher education, the students' union is often accorded its own building on the campus, dedicated to social, organizational activities, representation, and academic support of the membership.
In the United States, student union often only refers to a physical building owned by the university with the purpose of providing services for students without a governing body. This building is also referred to as a student activity center, although the Association of College Unions International (largely US-based) has hundreds of campus organizational members. Outside the US, student union and students' union refer to a representative body, as distinct from a student activity centre.
Depending on the country, the purpose, assembly, method, and implementation of the group might vary. Universally, the purpose of students' union or student government is to represent fellow students in some fashion.
In some cases, students' unions are run by students, independent of the educational facility. The purpose of these organizations is to represent students both within the institution and externally, including on local and national issues. Students' unions are also responsible for providing a variety of services to students. Depending on the organization's makeup, students can get involved in the union by becoming active in a committee, by attending councils and general meetings, or by becoming an elected officer.
Some students' unions are politicized bodies, and often serve as a training ground for aspiring politicians. Students' unions generally have similar aims irrespective of the extent of politicization, usually focusing on providing students with facilities, support, and services.
Some students' unions often officially recognize and allocate an annual budget to other organizations on campus. In some institutions, postgraduate students are within the general students' unions, whereas in others they have their own postgraduate representative body. In some cases, graduate students lack formal representation in student government.
Variations depending on country
As mentioned before universally the purpose of students' union or student government is to represent fellow students. Many times students' unions usually focusing on providing students with facilities, support, and services. Simple variations on just the name include the name differences between the United States (student government) and other countries (students' union). Depending on the country there are different methods of representation compulsory education to Higher education or tertiary.
Asia and Oceania
Australian student unions typically provide such services as eateries, small retail outlets (e.g., news agencies), student media (e.g., campus newspapers), advocacy, and support for a variety of social, arts, political, recreational, special interest and sporting clubs and societies. Most also operate specialized support services for female, LGBT, international and indigenous students. Many expressed concerns over the introduction of voluntary student unionism (VSU) in 2006.
In 2011, the Government passed legislation to allow universities to charge students a compulsory service fee to fund amenities such as sporting facilities, childcare and counselling, as well as student media and "advocating students’ interests".
The National Union of Students of Australia represents most undergraduate students' unions at a national level; the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is the umbrella organisation for postgraduate students' unions.
Azerbaijan Students Union (ASU) was established by students from Baku on 15 September 2008. ASU is an organization which was established on basis of international experience and it was the first student organization which united students irrespective of gender, race, creed, nationality.
During its action period ASU has formed stable structure, presented new suggestions about student policy to appropriate bodies, made close relations with international and regional student organizations, prepared new action plan according to the universities-students-companies' relations in Azerbaijan.
ASU considered international relations very important. For the first time ASU's delegates were participants of the First Asia IAESTE Forum in Shanghai during 12–15 November 2009. After that forum ASU established close relations with IAESTE which is one of the biggest student exchange organizations. As a result of relations on 21 January 2010 ASU was accepted a member of IAESTE. Our union gained right to represent Azerbaijan students in IAESTE. That membership was the union's first success on international level. During 20–27 January Azerbaijan Students Union was accepted as associative member of IAESTE in 64th Annual Conference in Thailand. Azerbaijan Students Union has been a full member of European Students' Union until 2015.
Membership in different universities has different functions. Some universities may give the membership a task of recording the students' attendance and the complex grades. Student associations of Chinese universities are mostly under the leadership of Communist Youth League of China, which to a large extent limit its function as an organization purely belonging to students themselves.
All universities in Hong Kong have students' unions. Most of these students' unions are members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. Many secondary schools also have students' unions or the equivalent. Students' unions are called student council and students' association in some secondary schools. Students' unions in secondary schools and universities are elected democratically and universally by the student population, and the cabinet winning a simple majority becomes the new students' union of the year. Students' union maintain quite a hierarchical structure.
India has developed a complex tradition of student politics dating from the era of Indian National Congress movement domination. Student unions are organised both within universities, like the Student Council of IISc and across universities, All India Students Federation (AISF) is the oldest student organisation in India founded on August 12, 1936. AISF is the only students organisation in the country which was actively involved in the Indian freedom struggle, but affiliated with political parties, as in the case of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Muslim Students Federation, Students Federation of India, National Students Union of India etc. who compete in elections to control posts in universities and colleges. Examples of activist unions include the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union, Delhi University Students Union, Udai pratap college students Union. Recently few school administrations had also started including the student government system as co-curricular activities in one form or another. There is one of a kind, non-political independent architectural students body, National Association of Students of Architecture.
In Indonesia, every university, college and higher education school has a student union. The student body in high school, which is called Organisasi Siswa Intra Sekolah (Student Organization Inside School), and abbreviated to OSIS, is the official student organization formed by the government. A general election to choose the leader is usually held every year. OSIS organizes the school's extracurricular activities such as music shows and art gallery (pentas seni/pensi).
In Japan, the student body is called 学生自治会 (gakusei-jichi-kai). In Japanese, the word 学生自治会 (gakusei-jichi-kai) means students' self-government-organizations. The student body in Japan promotes extracurricular activities. Usually, a cultural association, 文化会 (bunka-kai), and a sports association, 体育会 (taiiku-kai), are included within a student body as autonomous organizations. A student belongs to one or more students' organizations, and he or she does extracurricular activities through these students' organizations. However, the extracurricular activities of universities and colleges have been declining since the 1990s.
There is no nationwide student union in Japan that participates in university administration or university management.
A general election is held every year, usually in September, to elect representatives to MPP. The percentage of voter turn-outs are usually high (70 to 95 percent) largely due to enforcements from the universities' management which, at the same time, acts as the Election Committee.
Every year, the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education would set meetings and arrange programmes with all MPPs. Nevertheless, each MPP has their own autonomous right to govern their own membership. The size of MPP differs from each university, from as little as 12 to as many as 50. All MPP members are part-time and unpaid officers.
In 2011, Universiti Sains Malaysia established Students' Consultative Assembly (Malay: Dewan Perundingan Pelajar, DPP), the first student parliament established and the oldest of its kind in Malaysia, to involve participation of more student leaders in decision and policy making as well as to establish a legislative branch in its Students' Union system instead of having the only executive branch. A university student parliament is composed of MPP members and other elected or appointed student leaders representing their respective student body. As at May 2016, 7 public universities in Malaysia had their student parliament established.
Students associations have a strong history in New Zealand of involvement in political causes, notably the Halt All Racist Tours campaign during the 1981 Springbok Tour. All universities, and most polytechnics and colleges of education have a students association. Since the economic reforms of the 1990s and the introduction of user pays in tertiary education, students associations and the national body have shifted their focus to challenging inequities in the student loan scheme and high levels of student debt. Part-time work alongside the introduction of internal assessment and the change of semester structure has been attributed to the declining involvement in extracurricular activities and a shift in focus of the student movement from mass protest to lobbying.
Previous to 1998 membership of Students' Associations (pep) was compulsory at all public Tertiary Education providers (universities, polytechnics and colleges of education). In 1997 the centre-right National party proposed the Voluntary Student Membership amendment to the Education act which would have made membership of Students' Associations voluntary at all Tertiary Education Providers.
However the National Party relied on support from the centrist New Zealand First party to pass legislation. The New Zealand First party preferred that Tertiary Students themselves choose whether their provider should be voluntary or compulsory and pushed through a compromise to the amendment that allowed for a Compulsory Vs Voluntary referendum to be held at every public Tertiary Education Provider. The amendment also allowed for subsequent referendums which could not be held until at least two years had passed since the previous referendum and only if a petition was signed by 10% of the student populace.
The first wave of referendums were held in 1999, in which several Polytechnics and two Universities (the University of Waikato and the University of Auckland) elected to become voluntary. In 2002 a second referendum was held at the University of Waikato and students choose to return to compulsory student membership. Similar referendums at Auckland University in 2001, 2003 and 2005 have all elected to retain voluntary student membership.
Most of New Zealand Tertiary students' associations are confederated under the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations.
In the Philippines, student unions are referred to as "student government" and "student council." They are vital organizations for student representation and advancing the struggle of the people for their democratic rights and freedoms. At the primary and secondary level, student unions are referred to as pupil government handled by the Department of Education under their Student Government Program. Meanwhile, at the tertiary level, private and state colleges and universities have their own student councils. A university may further be subdivided into colleges with their own specializations (e.g., College of Law, College of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, etc.); in this case, the highest student representation will usually be referred to as the university student council while the student representation of these colleges will be called college student council(s). Aside from student unions, students are further represented in the through the student regent (e.g., UP Office of the Student Regent for the students of the University of the Philippines System). The student regent is a consequence of tireless and continuous struggle of the students to be represented in the highest policy-making body of their respective universities such as the school board where the student regent has voting powers, among others. Student regents are very common for universities with campuses in different locations and most especially in state universities and colleges. On the other hand, these student unions are also connected throughout the country via an alliance or network such as the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), which serves as a nationwide alliance of student councils/governments/unions committed to the advancement of the students' democratic rights and welfare since its establishment in 1957.
In Sri Lanka, each state university has several Students' unions with formal links to respective faculties. Inter University Students' Federation is the umbrella organization of 14 unions of university students. However, most of these have political affiliations and function as proxies of these political factions. Many unions take an active political role within the university and in the country as a whole. This frequently lead to much clashes between rival students' unions or the authorities.
In Taiwan, the student body is called 學生會 (pinyin: Xuéshēng Hùi; lit. 'student union or student association') or 學生自治會 (pinyin: Xuéshēng Zìzhì Hùi; lit. 'students' self-government-organizations'), these groups are often known as student association and students' union, or less commonly a student government. The law requires all universities and high schools should have a Student Association. Many universities student association in Taiwan are members of the National Students' Union of Taiwan (Chinese: 臺灣學生聯合會).
The role of students' unions in Myanmar were attached with Politics. From 1920, the students' union were outcoming and tried to get the Interdependence of Nation. There were many students boycotts in Myanmar:1920, 1936, 1962, 1974-75-76, 1988, 1996, 2007 and recently 2015 March. Most of them were connected with political issues.
In South Africa student representative councils are the executive and plenary body of student governance and charters and provides most of the funding for other student groups, and represents students' interests when dealing with the administration. In several instances representatives of these bodies are members of the university's Senate.
In 2012 the first student union, after 42 years of suppression, was founded. Students from Al Mimona Ebem Alharth school public school in Tripoli-Libya successfully established the union and promoted for other schools around the country to do the same. The founder Alaa Amed received local media attention for this achievement.
While higher education and student activism might vary depending on the country the National Association of Nigerian Students' is an organization with well over 50 university union across the nation.
Tunisia has many students unions including the Union Générale des Étudiants de Tunisie founded in 1952, and Union Générale Tunisienne des Étudiants founded in 1985.
While each students' union varies by countries the European Students' Union is an umbrella organization of 45 national unions of students from 36 European countries.
In Denmark the higher education system comprises two parallel sectors: universities and university colleges of applied sciences (e.g. nursing and engineering schools or teachers' colleges). Universities are characterised by scientific research and the highest education based thereon. University colleges of applied sciences are oriented towards working life and base their operations on the high vocational skill requirements set by it. These vocational institutions offer 3-4 year 'professional bachelor's degrees'. Besides that there are a number of art schools. Universities belong under the Ministry of Science, University Colleges belong under the Ministry of Education, and the Art Schools belong under the Ministry of Culture. There are 12 universities at the moment, but in 2006 there is a major merger process going on to make fewer, bigger institutions. The student unions at universities (and some of the art schools' student unions) are generally members of the National Union of Students in Denmark which represents these students on the national level.
Every university has a student union (In Danish, Studenterråd). Membership is not mandatory. The student unions are funded by the university and the Ministry of Science on the basis of the percentage of votes received every year at the university election. The student union is autonomous, its internal life organized by its by-laws. The student unions are responsible for all representation of the students and elect the student members of different administrative organs. They usually coordinate and finance the activities of smaller, more specialized student organizations. For the financing of their activities, some student unions exact a membership fee and/or engage in different businesses.
In the Ministry of Culture institutions there are also local student organisations. In the Ministry of Education institutions, The student activities are very much related to a student division of the Labor Union in the different areas. For instance, the teachers' students are organised in the national labor union for teachers and so forth.
The Upper-Secondary schools (In Danish, Gymnasier), It is in Denmark a law that there has to be a student council at the Upper-Secondary schools. The student councils are organized in the following organisations:
The central organization of the French higher education system means that local university bodies have restricted decision-making power. As a consequence, student unions are generally established at national level with local sections in most universities. The largest national student unions have a strong political identity and their actions are generally restricted to the defense of their vision of higher education rather than being focused on the particular interests of the membership of a single university. Union membership is regarded as an essentially political decision, without any particular advantage for students. The strength of unions is often measured by their effectiveness in national protests rather than by membership figures.
There are also class-struggle student unions such as the Solidaires Étudiant-e-s (formed in January 2013 through the fusion of the former organizations SUD Étudiant and Féderation syndicale étudiante (FSE)) which refuse to cooperate with the universities' direction and work to organize students.
In the grandes écoles, the premium league in the French higher education system, students are generally members of the official Student Office (Bureau des étudiants or Bureau des élèves) in charge of the organization of social activities and sports events. The constitutions of these societies, which work in close partnership with the school administration, usually prevent union members from running for executive positions in order to keep the school independent from political groups liable to harm the school's prestige.
In Germany the actual form of student representation depends strongly on the federal state. In most states there is a General Students' Committee (AStA) at every university. It is the executive organ of the parliaments and councils of all faculties.
In Greece every university department has its corresponding student union (in Greek: Σύλλογος Φοιτητών) and all students belonging to the department have the right to register as members. The main objective of a student union is to solve students' problems that can either be related to academic life or have a general political and social nature. Furthermore, student unions organize and support numerous activities such as political debates, demonstrations, university occupations, educational lectures, cultural and artistic events, conferences and so on.
The structure of a student union is rather simple and comprises two bodies: The General Students' Assembly (Greece) and the board of directors. The general assembly consists of all student-members of the union. It takes place on a regular basis and is the only decision-making body. During the general assembly, many topics of student interest are discussed and the decisions are taken after open vote. The board of directors makes sure that the decisions of the general assembly will be materialized. Moreover, the members of the board of directors, among which is the union's president, participate in various university administrative bodies as representatives of all students in the union.
Every year in early spring the student elections take place nationwide, during which students vote for their representatives. All student unions in Greece are members of the "National Student Union of Greece" (ΕΦΕΕ - Εθνική Φοιτητική Ένωση Ελλάδας).
Most of Ireland's universities and colleges have students' unions which were established to represent the students in the context of internal college issues and on wider student related issues and also a means of solidarity with other movements globally. An ongoing campaign of virtually every students' union in Ireland is to prevent the reintroduction of tuition fees which were abolished in 1995. Most, but not all, of the students' unions are affiliated with the Union of Students in Ireland. Notably, two of the seven university students' unions are not members. The students' unions are operated in accordance with the rules set down in their constitution which invariable enumerates a strong democratic and inclusive procedure for the governance on the union. Some Students' Unions run retail businesses in the interests of its students and run referendums, such as on whether or not to support same-sex marriage or abortion.
All Universities and Institutes of Technologies in the Republic of Ireland have Students' Unions.
National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI), the student movement in Northern Ireland was formed in 1972 by bilateral agreement between the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), to address the particular problems of representing students in Northern Ireland.
There are several students' unions in The Netherlands which act as labor unions for students. The largest ones are VSSD in Delft and ASVA Studentenunie in Amsterdam. These students' unions are all members of LSVb, the national students' union. There's also a similar organization called ISO (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg), which consists of several formal participation organizations, as well as ASVA Studentenunie and VSSD. Both ISO and LSVb are members of European Students' Union.
Lastly, the Netherlands has an (unofficial) student union for its students that study abroad: Netherlands Worldwide Students or simply NEWS.
The Netherlands is also home to an unusual case of student representation in which a local political party completely run by student gained seats during local town hall elections, STIP.
In Norway, every university is instructed and required by law to have a Student Union elected by the students at the university. Additionally, Norwegian law requires two students to be appointed as members of the board of directors for all universities. The goal for every Student Union is to act as the official voice of the students towards the university's administration and rector, informing them on the students' perspectives on most issues at the institution, either academic or administrative. They often additionally seek to improve their school environment through encouraging social, cultural and other extracurricular events in the local community. Each student union in Norway is governed by a board of directors which is elected directly from the Student Council. In addition, most upper secondary schools in Norway are affiliated with the School Student Union of Norway.
In Portugal, every university, polytechnic institute and any other higher education schools has their own students' unions. Union organizations are generally aimed to organize and promote extracurricular activities such as sports and culture events, parties, and academic festivities. At the same time, they also act as "labour unions for students" promoting and defending the students' points of view and rights, and dealing with the teaching institutions and the State's education agencies policies. The oldest union of Portugal is the Associação Académica de Coimbra (founded in 1887) which belongs to the students of the University of Coimbra. The biggest students' union is Associação dos Estudantes do Instituto Superior Técnico (AEIST).
At Swedish universities, students' unions are responsible for representing the students in evaluation of the education and decision-making within the universities. Not Swedish universities[clarification needed] are affiliated with the Swedish National Union of Students. The union normally holds about one-third of the votes within every decision making body and thus holds a great deal of power.
The unions are usually governed by a general assembly of elected representatives. Students' unions generally provide counselling services to its members and publishes their own magazines or newspapers. Large universities often have several students' unions, where the smaller students' unions only provide basic services. Larger students' unions often own and run their own facilities at the university such as shops, restaurants and night clubs.
The United Kingdom has a long history of student unionism at a local and national level. The oldest students' union in Britain is King's College London Students' Union, founded in 1873, and the oldest in Scotland is believed to be the University of St Andrews Students' Association, formed in 1885. Most bodies are termed unions, however there exist a number of guilds and students' associations. Students' associations is a popular term in Scotland, as historically there were separate men's and women's unions focused on societies and entertainment with representation to the university carried out by separate Students' Representative Councils. Most students' unions in the UK are affiliated to the National Union of Students, although there exist other national representative bodies, such the National Postgraduate Committee, the Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland and the Aldwych Group, the association of students' unions of members of the Russell Group.
National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI), the student movement in Northern Ireland was formed in 1972 by bilateral agreement between the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), to address the particular problems of representing students in Northern Ireland.
Under the Education Act 1994, the role and purpose of students' unions is defined as being "promoting the general interests of its members as students". This has limited the ability of students' unions to campaign on issues not directly related to their members as students, such as Apartheid and the 1984–85 miners' strike.
In Canada, membership in a college or university students' union is mandatory across Canada under various provincial statutes. Included in Canadian students' tuition fees is anywhere from an additional $10–$500 fee to pay for the services of the union. The money raised from dues is often used to support a staff and office. Student elections usually happen around March as the membership elect their unions' executives. The current largest undergraduate student union in Canada is the York Federation of Students, at the York University, with around 60,000 members.
Most students' unions are charged by their membership to protect their best interests at the university, municipal, provincial and federal government levels. Many students' unions in Canada are members of one of the national student organizations, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) or the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). Those that belong to the CFS at the national level also belong to the CFS at the provincial level. Those that do not belong to the CFS may belong to a provincial student organization like the New Brunswick Student Alliance, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), the College Student Alliance, StudentsNS (formerly known as ANSSA), the Alliance of British Columbia Students, the Council of Alberta University Students, or the Alberta Students Executive Council. In Quebec, the provincial student organizations are the Quebec Federation of University Students (Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec or FEUQ) for university students, college students are represented by the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec or FECQ, while the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante or ASSE is a more radical organisation that includes students from both levels of education.
Different provinces have different rules governing student unions. In British Columbia under section 27.1 of the University Act, student unions may only raise or rescind mandatory student union fees through a democratic referendum of the membership. Once fees are passed through this mechanism, the board of governors of the respective institutions are then required to remit those fees to the student union, and may only interfere in the internal affairs of the student union if it fails to complete annual audits of its finances, giving these student unions strong autonomy over their institutions. In Ontario, the autonomy of student unions is set by standards outlined by each institution, giving university administrators a broader scope of powers over the finances of student unions.
In Mexico, students unions are mostly predominant in universities. Mexican universities have an elected student committee each year, but the faculties or schools within the universities have also their own union. This practice is also extended to other levels of education, such as high and junior high school, but to a lesser extent. An example of this is the Sociedad de Alumnos de HPA Mexico.
Jesuit student groups played an important role in Mexico's history, particularly in opposing the imposition of socialist education in Mexico in the 1930s. Leaders from the Unión Nacional de Estudiantes Católicos (UNEC) had long-term importance in Mexico's political history, since a number of them helped form the conservative National Action Party (Mexico).
In the United States, these groups are often known as student government, associated students, student senate, or less commonly a students' union. In the U.S., the phrase "student union" often refers to a "student activity center" (also known as a "student center" or "student commons"), a building with dining halls, game rooms, lounges, student offices, and other spaces for student activities. At institutions with large graduate, medical school, and individual "college" populations, there are often student governments that serve those specific constituencies.
The Brazilian Society
This society has existed since 2003 and now has 190 members, where only one third are Brazilian. The other two thirds are people who are just interested in Brazilian politics, famous parties and culture. This is one of the societies that students may join if they so wish. The society has social events and it hosts lectures. They also have a Brazilian discussion group on a weekly basis in order to discuss current events.
The National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) is the sole organization that represents over 300,000 students of 61 higher education institutes and vocational schools in Israel. We believe that the young age group of Israel, comprising almost half of the Israel’s population, is the living force of society. NUIS was established in 1934, before establishment the state of Israel.
The Student Union’s main activity is to widespread and include a variety of activities portraying its worldview regarding the students’ role, responsibilities and benefits within the Israeli society. The union is composed of professional departments enacting the decisions made for, and with the student community, in addition to local student unions in each of the higher education institutes. The central role of the union is to protect the student's status and rights, while strengthening its social purpose as the leading organization driving lively activities among the students.
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- "Student Services and Amenities Fee". Department of Education and Training. Australian Government. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
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- Vereniging voor Studie en Studentenbelangen te Delft. Vssd.nl. Retrieved on 2010-10-25.
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- LSVb home. Lsvb.nl. Retrieved on 2010-10-25.
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- Alex Bols (26 June 2014). "The 1994 Education Act and students' unions". WONKHE. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
- David Espinosa, Jesuit Student Groups, the Universidad Iberoamericana, and Political Resistance in Mexico, 1913-1979. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2014.
- "União Nacional dos Estudantes".