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Cost of Living – End of Term Update

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As part of our ongoing student voice work, students are telling us that times are hard and cost of living is pinching. We know it’s causing stress, impacting your studies and your ability to socialise or undertake activities that would help your wellbeing.

We’ve just launched our Strategic Plan and one of our core values is “transparency.” As such we wanted to answer a few frequently asked questions about the work we’re doing through the cost of living crisis and on our finances, accounts or ticket pricing.

Please note that HASU is a registered Charity and not for profit organisation. Registered Charity Number #1157391

What has HASU done so far to help with the cost of living crisis?

We launched the Breakfast Club on Sundays and provide a free breakfast to students in the Welly every week.

We’ve held ticket prices as low as we can to ensure people can socialise and we hold 10% of our tickets for balls for discounted earlybird rates. Last year tickets for Wednesday night (plus return bus transport) were £6 plus 50p booking fee. Despite the soaring cost of putting on events and nights out we’ve been able to hold tickets low at £7 if you buy early.

We heard that you didn’t like the booking fees so we spent summer renegotiating the fees with the company who process the sale of our tickets. We’ve managed to get the price down AND now absorb them so the price advertised is the price you pay. There is a cost to HASU in physically selling a ticket via credit or debit card.

We launched Quids In – in the Welly every day from 4-6pm with drinks deals starting at £2.50 to make sure that if you choose to socialise you can access great deals. On top of that we were delighted to open up Quids In Plus wristbands which extend the amazing drinks deals until 8pm, every single day.

Speaking of drinks promotions, our Stock Taker told us on Friday that since the start of term we’ve given away over £50,000 of discounts through our 4 for £10 offers on Wednesday, through "Quids In" or our other deals we have behind the bar on Wednesday’s and at our other events.

We’ve added additional FREE activities including Yoga and social sports that run throughout the week to support those students who want to take part in physical activity but might not be able to afford joining a club/society. In addition to this we actively provide FREE creative sessions where students such as card making, painting and gaming.

 

What are we going to do in 2023?

We heard you loud and clear in the student voice surveys telling us that cost of living was something you wanted us to work on. So, we’ll be working with the university to make sure you’re heard and that we can try and reduce some of that financial pressure.

If you are struggling financially, we’d definitely recommend applying to the ALF (Access to Learning Fund) via student services! You can find out more about the ALF by visiting the Harper Adams University website here.

At HASU we’re looking at how we can continue to try and offer you the best value for money and we’ll be trialling a “Term Pass” for FLOCK to offer even further discounts to those of you who do want to attend more often. We’ll continue to offer early tickets for those of you who want to pick and choose and we’ll be broadening our free activities provision to make socialising easier and cheaper for more people.

 

“How much does it cost to run the Students’ Union and all of its activities?”

The Union’s turnover is around £1.3million per year. We received a grant from the university of £145,000 and the union needs to generate around £250,000 surplus each year to operate at the level that we do now and break even as a business. So yes, the union has to generate income, but no we don’t make any “profit.” In fact, under charity law we aren’t allowed to make and hold substantial profits. Profits we do make either need to be spent on our activities or put in our charitable reserve.

“What happened over the past 2 years?”

The Pandemic hit HASU hard. We weren’t able to trade and in 20-21 we made a substantial £105,000 loss. Last year in 21-22 our trading was also impacted at the start of the year and we lost £56,000. These losses were paid for out of our charitable reserve (HASU’s life savings). We’ve still got some in the bank, but we do need to rebuild our reserves. We can only do this by making a surplus in future years. What we won’t do is try to do this all in one year. Over the next 5-10 years we need to generate a small surplus each year.

If you’re really interested in the details, our audited management accounts can be found here. 

 

“Does Christmas Ball or Wednesday nights make a profit?”

Yes, and no.

The balls and our Wednesday nights themselves do generate a surplus. But HASU is a not for profit organisation. We aren’t allowed to make and hold substantial profit under charity law and so we invest money we make back into the services we run. Some years we make a small surplus overall, some years we make losses.

 

“Why did the price of Christmas Ball go up?”

We know times are hard. They’re tough for us too.

Our Wednesday nights and the 3 Ball events per year help to support the charity’s work on representation, sports, societies and advocacy. They fund events like our book signing with Kaleb Cooper, our Christmas markets, free activities on Wednesday afternoons, Yoga, social sports on Friday and some of the new equipment in our gym. We also have to pay our staff team who run and support these activities and our student staff who work hard to make sure you have the best experience. Our major events help to support some of our smaller events that otherwise might not be able to run, including the quiz nights and live music in the Welly.

Simply put there is an absolute need for HASU to ensure our events generate a surplus enough to cover the costs of the business. This mixed with skyrocketing costs associated with putting on the events resulted in us needing to raise prices. The cost of marquees, coaches, staging, sound and lighting have all gone up along with the cost of security and booking artists and DJ’s.

Christmas Ball made a surplus of around £30,000 but as we’ve pointed out above, this surplus has already been allocated against essential spending.  We can reduce the ticket prices but we’d need to substantially cut back on services or provisions elsewhere. Our job is to try and find the best balance, for most people.

 

“Why do you sell Early & Late Tickets”

The earlier students buy tickets the more it helps us to set appropriate staffing levels. Where we overstaff we’re spending money we don’t need to which we could otherwise spend on other things for you. So, we incentivise early ticket purchases. When large numbers of students buy tickets late on it sometimes means we have to pay a premium to bring in extra security, busses or other staff to make sure we meet our H&S requirements. We price the late tickets in a way that we hope encourages people to plan ahead, but also covers us if we need to bring in additional staff late on. For Wednesdays we don’t put Late Tickets on sale until the event has started and for our balls we often have to cut sales of standard tickets slightly earlier so we can alert our community stakeholders, H&S or licencing with expected numbers. Ideally, we’ll only sell a tiny number of late tickets to a few people who make really late decisions to join us. They absolutely aren’t sold simply to make more money.

If you have any questions regarding our finances and how we run as a business or are interested in learning more, please get in touch with us! You can email us on studentsunion@harper-adams.ac.uk or pop into our offices to schedule some time to talk. 

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