01 September 2011

Update on the USU-University Negotiations

Last week the Union met with Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Derrick Armstrong to discuss the progress of the negotiations.

To give some context, on August 9 the Union submitted a formal request to extend the Service Level Agreement (due to end 31 December 2011) as well as an extension of the Venues Agreement - the joint venture that enables the USU to operate the University of Sydney Venue Collection (USVC), the business responsible for hiring venues, catering and event management on campus, predominantly to corporate and University clients.

Since 2008, when the USU was given the responsibility for the booking and hiring of University venues in the wake of VSU, the business has become a vital source of income to fund the USU’s student programs. The USVC delivers approximately $900,000 per year in profits, making it an invaluable component in funding our expansive student experience programs and services.

Last December, the University gave a 12-month notice of termination of the Venues Agreement. This means we are facing the real possibility of transferring a significant independent revenue stream by the end of this year.

While we are obviously concerned about the possible transfer of the USVC, it was made clear to us last week by the University that a final decision on the Venues Agreement has not yet been made. Professor Armstrong stated that a decision on our extension request for both the Venues Agreement and Service Level Agreement will be pending until the end of September, when a Retail Strategy Business Case is to be presented to the University.

The University’s Campus Infrastructure Services has hired an external consultant to develop the Retail Strategy Business Case, which is expected to be completed on September 20 and will inform the University’s decision. The USU will receive it in early October, and we will then reassess our options moving forward.

It’s the USU’s legal position that any transfer of commercial operations must be supported by the membership. As October is late in the semester, the Board believes that it is somewhat unrealistic to expect the USU and University to reach a member-endorsed agreement by the end of this year.

In our efforts to prevent the loss of a key funding stream, we will seek to meet the University’s concerns and continue to demonstrate that there are better, alternate methods of meeting their issues than a transfer of all the Union's commercial operations.

This is your Union, and we’d like to know what you, as students and members, think. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and questions.

Sibella Matthews


  1. Kick up a stink. It seems like the University holds all the cards and is happy to wait out the process whilst making the Union's future uncertain.

    Stop being so damned polite and copping the University's delaying tactics. Its fairly clear that 9 months in, being polite has achieved little to nothing for the USU. I'm fairly certain that the University is happy to just wait out the clock on these negotiations. There are staff members and students who rely on the USU and given the positive effect it has on campus I think you guys should cease being civil and fight tooth and nail.

    The longer it goes on the less students will be on campus/have time to care. Cease dithering and rally the troops.

  2. So what happens if October comes around and the University decides to terminate the Venues Agreement, and the students don't want to? Is the Uni then forced to just accept that and deal with it?

  3. Cant USU members just vote now against loosing the USVC?

    Yeah, it seems as if the uni is just stalling to prevent a uprising when the eventually decided to terminate the agreement. This whole thing is going on for far to long!

  4. Thank you everyone for your comments and advice. In answer to your question, the transfer of USVC doesn't require a constitutional change and therefore doesn't require member approval. In order to terminate the Venues Agreement the University is only required to provide us with 12 months notice. This is separate to the process of a potential transfer of the commercial operations on campus, which would require a special majority at a Union General Meeting in order to take effect.

    We have been cooperating and negotiating in good faith with the University as a professional and amicable relationship with the University is important. As the process continues, we increasingly need the support of our members to demonstrate to the University that a strong, independent, student-led Union is what students desire. We’ll especially need this support over the coming months and we encourage our members – and the campus community in general – to make their voices heard – to both the Union and the University.


  5. Cool. So basically, come December 31 the uni is allowed to just take away USVC. Do we have plans for an alternate revenue stream? Because I'm not sure how the USU will survive in that case.