The Graduate Student Association’s (GSA) large budget of £140,000 has come under increased scrutiny the debate on funding levels continues.
With Union expenses growing and JCRCs publicly calling for greater funding from YUSU, the GSA’s substantial grant has been criticised for lacking financial clarity and sensible budgeting.
The University-funded organisation’s 2006/07 budget reveals a large underspend of almost £30,000, representing 21% of the total funds requested for that year.
Tom Flynn, GSA Treasurer, has defended the organisation’s financial situation, citing recent moves to overhaul its financial management. “The budgeting process hasn’t been as good as it should be, I’ll freely admit that, but that is changing this year, and we’re going to be talking to the student union and following a much more specific budgeting plan,” Flynn said.
“Now, I’ve come in and I’ve not really been happy with the way that things have been run, and I’m looking to change things a lot. Events in the past we’ve tended to run at a bit of a loss, that’s stopped from this year, they’ve all been run at revenue neutral, so we don’t make any profit, but we also don’t lose it,” Flynn continued.
“They are getting better,” commented YUSU President Anne-Marie Canning, “but a couple of years ago, it was a real mess.”
While the GSA have received criticism for large event spending, the budget reveals that the organisation spent only half of the events budget of £26,900. “The single biggest problem that graduate students face at university is meeting other students. The vast majority live in houses, come in for their lecture, go home again. So social activities is a much larger role for the GSA than YUSU, and we’ve fallen prey in the past to being seen as only a sociable activity kind of organisation,” Flynn said.
Flynn is keen for the GSA to be better understood. “A common misconception is that the GSA is simply the Wentworth graduate common room. We have to remember that the GSA is not just a JCRC – it’s on exactly the same footing as YUSU. We also fund common rooms, graduate common rooms, just like YUSU do the college JCRCs,” he added.
“When the university was first created, it was predominantly for graduate students,” Flynn continued, “the GSA existed a year before the Student’s Union, and it’s in the ordinances of the University.”