• HEPI number 111

In this report, Mike Day and Jim Dickinson look at the past, present and future of student unions.

Although almost every university has a students’ union, there is little research or reliable data on their form, role or successes. They are often seen and judged through a ‘student politics’ lens and face criticism for being too radical, not radical enough or unrepresentative.

To understand today’s students’ unions – their role, contribution, critique and opportunity – requires an understanding of their history. This HEPI report traces their origins from 1088 to the present day and ends by considering their future potential.