Wessex Scene can reveal which societies and zones received the most – and the least – funding from SUSU last year via grants.
Last year SUSU awarded a grand total of £259,933 in grants to different student societies. Of the 225 societies and clubs which applied for funding, 188 were successfully awarded a portion of funds.
The total sum awarded represents a third of what societies had asked for, meaning that had every single request for funding been fulfilled completely, SUSU would have required over £750,000 to meet the applications from all societies.
Only 14 societies received everything they’d requested in 2017/18. Wessex Scene can reveal that Jazz Band was the most successful of these 14, being awarded all of the requested £1,950 – but they are not the society who have received the most funding.
Commenting on his society’s success with the grant process last year, President of Jazz Band, Thomas Jackson, said:
Jazz Band is a very new society just entering its third year. As well as our non-auditioned main band (for anyone with an interest in Jazz to join), we are also creating smaller ensembles which can go out and gig. Already to date we’ve received numerous requests for paid gig opportunities and, hopefully this year, these smaller groups can go out, make some money, and invest it straight back into the band. Our long-term plan is to become a self-sufficient band – everything we request is needed to work towards this goal – but we need financial help from the Union at this crucial point in our development to achieve this, and we make this clear in our funding applications.
Societies are able to make applications to different pots, representing the nature of what the requested funds would be spent on. The vast majority of funding was requested for Core and Tours pots, roughly evenly split between them. A total of £68,505 was requested through Capital pot applications. Speaking to Wessex Scene, SUSU’s VP Sports, Steve Gore, revealed:
The actual amount awarded to Clubs and Societies for capital grant requests in the academic year 2017/18 was £17,137 across 8 societies.
Funding was allocated unevenly between zones, with Sports Development societies receiving 75% of the total grant funds allocated, despite representing only a third of societies that applied for funding. Student Life societies received the least with only 1% of the total funds, while representing 4% of the number of societies that made applications. Creative Industries societies were the most successful with their funding applications, collectively receiving just under half of everything they requested. They received the second-highest funds on average, after Sports Development societies. Education societies received the least funding on average, at £226 per society.
Steve Gore told Wessex Scene:
[w]hilst it is true that we award more grants to sports clubs than any other zone, this is because sports are inherently expensive to provide than many other societies, and there is an expectation from students that we will provide a decent sporting experience for them during their time at University. In 2010 the University handed over the responsibility of providing sports to SUSU and with it an extra factored cost to our annual block grant, meaning that we had more money to allocate specifically to sports. [S]ports clubs tend to have larger membership fees associated with them than the other zones that often exceed £100 a year even with Union contributions. We want to make these costs more reasonable for the students who want to take part in sport and the increased grant allocations reflects this.
Of the societies that were not awarded any of the money they had asked for, British Red Cross Group had requested the most. They asked for £18,349, but received nothing. Wessex Scene can reveal that the society that received the most funding last year was Wessex Sailing Club, and that they were also the society that requested the most. They asked for £93,436 and were awarded £13,872, representing 5% of the total funds shared out to all societies by SUSU.
As can be seen below, the generally more expensive nature of sports clubs, and reflecting the consequent overall greater distribution of grant funding towards the Sports Zone, sees sports clubs sweep the top ten most well-funded by SUSU societies, based on grant funding only.
Combined with funding to societies outside of the grant funding application structure, the top ten most well-funded societies by SUSU in 2017/18 appears like this:
Commodore Oliver Aldridge spoke to Wessex Scene about Wessex Sailing Club and how the grant money helps the society:
The majority of the grant money was used for subsidising competition entry fees. Sailing events cost a lot to attend and we compete in all the major BUCS events throughout the year, often sending multiple teams. Although we do sometimes still get competitors to partly fund these events, it massively reduces the financial burden – ensuring the club is accessible to anyone.
As well as this, it is used to maintain and upgrade equipment when necessary. Boats are expensive and do need to be maintained in order to remain safe to use, so naturally we have a higher expenditure than most other societies.
He also added on the sporting success of the society and plans for this year:
Last year as a society we won 168 BUCS points for the university. This… puts us at the highest ranking for Sailing in the country. In order to continue these results onto next year, we need to keep providing our members with the opportunity to race and train with suitable equipment whilst keeping their costs at a minimum.
This year we are putting more of a focus on our casual sailing sessions by using some grant money to send our members on courses. This will enable us to run more beginner sessions and get more people involved.
Contacted by Wessex Scene, SUSU’s VP Sports Steve Gore provided an extensive response to our queries about society funding. Referring to Wessex Sailing Club specifically, he said:
Wessex Sailing Club is simultaneously one of the most expensive clubs to run but also our highest performing club. They have previously won the University World Yachting Championships and are currently ranked #1 in the UK in BUCS ranking for sailing, contributing 11.6% of our total BUCS points in the last year. Multiple alumni of the club have won Olympic medals in sailing leading to the University of Southampton being internationally renowned for our water sports offer. We feel that this is a justified cost to continue supporting our high performance in this area.
To read VP Sports Steve Gore’s full comments, please click here.
[Full disclosure: The article author and investigator is the current Student Life Zone Clubs and Societies Rep and a committee member of the Student Life Zone society, Humanist Students Southampton, and was also a committee member for that society last year.]
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 12th December 2018 with a graph of the overall top ten most well-funded societies following the provision of new data.