A message to all current students about the future of Oxford SU

Please see a message below, sent jointly on behalf of the Trustees of Oxford SU and the University.

We are writing to let you know about some important changes to Oxford SU designed to ensure effective student representation across the collegiate University in the long term.

Oxford SU concerns

The University and Oxford SU’s sabbatical officers and trustees are all committed to robust student representation that meets the expectations of all Oxford students.

However, in recent years, there have been increasing concerns about the SU’s ability to operate and represent the student body effectively. This has also created additional pressure on sabbatical officers.

Turnaround plan

In light of the challenges faced, Oxford SU’s Trustees (which includes sabbatical officers) have decided the situation is unsustainable, and that an urgent turnaround plan is needed. The SU has invited the University to participate in this process.

The turnaround plan will transform the governance and operations of the SU – seeking to improve the Union’s effectiveness and its representation of students across the collegiate University. Its ambitions include providing:

  • Improved clarity among students about the SU’s purpose
  • A more responsive student representation system
  • A structure that better supports the Sabbatical Officers.

This work will be led by a Transformation Committee, co-chaired by the SU and the University, with a Change Director appointed by Oxford SU to drive the transition to a new model.

It will build on the work of an independent review of Oxford SU, which is currently nearing completion with student input, and which will make recommendations on a new student representation system.

Interim arrangements

While this work progresses, Oxford SU has developed an interim plan, to allow it to focus on the necessary change. This will mean operations cut back to all but the most essential activities:

  • The current Students’ Council will be replaced by a consultative system to allow student voices to be heard in the transformation planning.
  • Other key activities, such as Oxford SU’s advice service, the Freshers’ Fair and the student campaigns for under-represented groups, will continue.

Commitment to student democracy The University, Oxford SU Sabbatical Officers and the Board of Trustees are all thoroughly committed to student democracy and a robust student voice, and are embarking on this process to deliver the strong, high-quality, well-governed Students’ Union that our students expect and deserve.

Further details of the transition process, and opportunities for student input, will be given in due


FAQs: Oxford University Students’ Union Transformation Plan 


What is the Transformation Plan?

The Transformation Plan is a reform initiative by the Students’ Union to transform our structure, governance, and operations in collaboration with the University, who will co-chair and participate in the Transformation Committee.  

Currently, the Transformation Plan consists of: 

  • A root & branch review of the student representation system across the whole of the University of Oxford 

  • A review of the Union’s democratic and governance structures to support effective student representation, including sabbatical officer effectiveness 

  • A review of the SU operations including staffing structures, people & culture, delivery and income generation 

  • Review and prioritisation of the outcomes of the SU Review undertaken by the University and the SU since May 2023 where these help address points above.  


Why was the Transformation Plan initiated? 

The Students’ Union is committed to effective student representation—a standard that we have failed at in the past. At the start of the year, in consultation with the University and recognising serious improvements had to be made, an independent review of the Students’ Union was launched.  

Alongside this, the organisation has also been conducting internal analysis around its’ effectiveness, governance and financial stability. From this it was clear that urgent action was needed. 

With the independent review nearing conclusion, we believe now is the right time for the Transformation Plan. Our goal is to deliver a Students’ Union that meets the high standards our students rightly deserve. 


What are the aims of the Transformation Plan? 

The Transformation Plan is aimed at creating an Oxford Students’ Union that works for all students across all of the Oxford Colleges. This will take some time, and we want to make sure that we get it right. The primary aim is to create a fully functioning student engagement system which is fit for purpose and a sustainable organisation to deliver it. We’ll be looking at: 

  • A structure that better supports Sabbatical Officers and empowers them to thrive in roles 

  • Clarity within the Student body as to the purpose of the Students' Union 

  • Development of a robust student representation model that services the requirements of the collegiate structure at Oxford 

  • Strong values driven, inclusive culture that represents the diversity of the student body 

  • Refinement, analysis, and implementation of SU Review recommendations 

  • Student Representation and engagement throughout the process 

  • Confidence in the SU to deliver on its primary purpose from both the Student Body and the Institution 


Can students contribute to the Transformation Plan? 

Absolutely. Student input is vital to the success of the Transformation Plan. We will have further details in the coming months about how students will be involved throughout the process. 

If students have initial questions, thoughts, comments or feedback we are encouraging students to submit them via this form. We’ll update these FAQs as questions are submitted. 


What essential activities will the SU focus on during the Transformation Plan? 

In order to ensure the SU has the capacity to focus on the Transformation Plan, the current proposal is that the SU will focus only on the following essential activities for the rest of the academic year: 

  • Facilitation of student-led campaigns. 

  • Operation of the Student Advice Service 

  • Access and Participation Plan Student Submission 

  • Student representation on important University/College committees 

  • Welfare provision to colleges 

If you think we’ve missed out something essential that should continue then please submit this to the student feedback form. Unfortunately, some things will have to stop; this isn’t a reflection of how important or impactful that work is. 


What activities/services will be affected? 

To make room to rebuild, we need to stop existing activity and projects. We know that this list may not be complete or fully reflective of activity and we’re happy to hear feedback and proposals for other activity which should continue. Unfortunately its unlikely that we’ll be able to continue with all activity. 

  • Student Council will be replaced to become a consultative body to allow student voices to be represented in the transformation planning.  

  • All other student facing activities and projects will cease for the duration of the Transformation Period  

  • Target Schools and other charity/local community engagement 

We have also taken the decision to close Oxford SU from 25 March 2024 until the 2nd of April for the Easter break, and you may experience some delay in responses/disruption to normal service for that period and for a few weeks after. Please be patient with the staff team who are also impacted by these decisions. 


Will Fresher’s Fair 2024 happen? 

We understand how important it is for students to feel welcomed to the University, so the current proposal is that Freshers Fair will take place in 2024.