Clubs; should they stay or should they go?

By Stephen McCallum

There are currently discussions in the university community about who should support student clubs at UniSA.

Traditionally, non-academic student services, including clubs, have been supported by student organisations like UniLife. However, the university has indicated its desire to provide administration services for clubs instead of UniLife. There are many benefits to both models of club funding and I’ll talk about the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ raised with them as impartially as I am able to as a former Unilife president.

The university’s case

The university claims it will be able to bring large organisations and well known athletes into the club community by virtue of the sheer size of the university as an organisation. The university will also be able to link clubs to relevant parts of the university, such as by promoting sporting clubs to physiotherapy students.

The university has also identified that its more corporate approach would allow it to capitalise on potential sponsorship revenue, especially from sporting clubs, to better enable it to fund clubs.

Unilife’s case

Unilife’s position is that it is more able to provide services to suit the needs of students as the organisation is run by students, many of which are club managers themselves. Being a student organisation, Unilife’s sole overarching purpose is to provide non-academic student services, create a fun campus environment and lobby the university to improve or maintain the quality of education or academic services.

In contrast, the university’s core objective is to educate students in advanced fields of learning. Maintaining a good teaching and research nexus is important for providing a good quality education and this is why universities are uniquely placed to offer higher education. While academics and university administrators are highly capable of offering a quality education, they are not well placed to deliver core support for clubs. The people best placed to know what support is needed most by clubs are the students in those clubs. In the absence of a clubs association, I think the next best option to help support clubs would be students, given that clubs are mostly comprised of students and are funded on that basis.

I’m sure I’ve missed points from both sides, but the cases outlined are not as important as your opinions. If you’re an opinionated club administrator, club member or active student, write to UniLife about your thoughts, ideas or concerns about the administration of our clubs. While UniLife intends to run forums about clubs, any feedback is welcome.

UniLife on regional campuses

I was excited when I heard about plans to build a new multimillion dollar campus at Mt Gambier. The expansion will enable UniSA to increase enrolments in social work and nursing, and will enable the provision of further education courses.

UniSA has huge opportunities to reinvigorate the regional community by providing local training for teachers. In the past, would-be country teachers had to go to Adelaide or Melbourne to get their qualification, but many lacked the resources to move so far away from home, and many of those who did leave decided they enjoyed the city life instead, after building networks and friendships there for three or four years.

Education is empowerment, and the improvement of the regional education system, through the training of passionate local teachers, will have a massive long-term impact in the broader south-east.

A recent visit to the Whyalla campus provided a great deal of insight into campus life there. There is a great deal of scope to improve student services and campus culture over the next few months. Areas of concern and discussion topics within the university include, in particular, the security and cleanliness of the student village and the campus’ opening hours.

There are also many opportunities to expand student space and student services in the new campus and I’m sure we will have some updates about this in the near future.

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