Angry students at the University of London have vowed to fight an "illegitimate" decision to shut their student union made by university officials.
The university (UoL) voted to close the union on Friday, a move described by the vice president of the student union as a "disgrace" and "destructive". The reason to shut the University of London Union (ULU) was to "save money" - which has angered students as the vice-chancellors have a combined salary of £4.1m. According to the union, the cost of funding ULU is an annual grant of £800,000, most of which is paid directly back to the university as rent.
The University of London's student union is to close
Michael Chessum, president of the ULU said: "This decision is totally illegitimate and will have a majorly negative impact on student life and representation in London: no student sat on the review panel, no student got a vote on the decision, and student responses have been ignored or brushed aside throughout.
"It’s not that we won’t go down without a fight – we simply won’t go down."
The decision comes after a review group recommended the abolition of the ULU, stripping students of their facilities and building. The current building in Bloomsbury will be turned into a "student services centre" run by the university.
The ULU represents more than 120,000 students from 18 colleges and 10 research institutions, including the University College London (UCL), making it the largest student union in Europe. The changes will take effect next summer.
Daniel Cooper, ULU's vice president, added: "The decision by the University is extremely myopic and destructive. It is an attack on the students’ union autonomy and independence. If it can happen here, it can happen at any other students’ union in the country. The decision is a disgrace - we will be fighting this decision tooth and nail.
"The University have said they will facilitate the setting up of a new pan-London representative structure. We will not allow the structures, history and expertise, that have been built up over many years, be thrown away in this vandalistic way. We will continue to represent the interests of all London students."
One former sports club president described the ULU's clubs and societies as a "breath of fresh air".
Graham Miles, former President of the ULU Fencing club, said: "Many [students] remain in touch long after graduation, forming an informal global network of contacts and friends that is hugely beneficial to all members of the club, new or old. Marriages, careers and lifelong friendships have been forged from this network.
"ULU societies are uniquely placed to provide such a network because they bring together people from such varied backgrounds, a breath of fresh air for students attending small specialist colleges.”
Others, however, weren't so angry at the decision, tweeting:
Chris Rogers, executive editor of London student newspaper, The Beaver, asked: "Just really, who in their right mind wants to save ULU?"
He added: "If @ULUnion spend a fraction of the effort being useful as it is fighting its closure, maybe it wouldn't be closing down... In what conceivable way has ULU ever fought for its members.
"Asked a student for a quote on the ULU situation, I received the response "What's ULU?" - sums up the situation nicely."
Many students have now pledged to fight the closure, with ULU planning to set up a London-wide student assembly to contest the decision.
One UCL student added: "We have a proud heritage of fighting for our rights. If the university thinks that it can simply start stealing our buildings in 2014, it has another thing coming."
The UoL has been contacted for comment but has yet to reply.