Edinburgh University Students' Association

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Edinburgh University Students' Association
InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
LocationThe Potterrow, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Established1884 – Students' Representative Council

1889 – Edinburgh University Union
1905 – Edinburgh University Women's Union

1931 – King’s Buildings Union
PresidentEllen MacRae
CEOStephen Hubbard
Vice presidents
Activities & Services
Rachel Irwin
Amanda Scully
Fizzy Abou Jawad
Niamh McCrossan
(2020/21)[1] [needs update]
Membersaround 41,300 [2] [needs update]
AffiliationsNational Union of Students[3]

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts[3]
Right to Education Campaign/Friends of Birzeit University[3]
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland[3]
Votes at 16[3]

As of 2019
Income£12.7m (2018/19)[4]

Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) is the students' union at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. The Association's aim is the advancement of education of Edinburgh students by representing and supporting them, and by promoting their interests, health and welfare within the community.[5] It is led by a team of five elected student sabbatical officers.

Due to the evolution of student unionism at Edinburgh, student sports are not part of the main university union, and are overseen by a separate organisation, Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU), which has its own representative and organisational structure. EUSU works closely with the University's Centre for Sport and Exercise.


1884–1972: Establishment[edit]

An Edinburgh Students' Representative Council (SRC) was founded in 1884 by student Robert Fitzroy Bell, bringing together students from the University's clubs & societies.[6] Shortly afterwards, the SRC voted to establish a union (the Edinburgh University Union (EUU)), to provide social space and recreational facilities for students. The SRC established a campaign of public fundraising, with prominent figures in the city and the general public donating £5,000, and a fancy fair held at the Waverly Market raised £10,000. The Town Council and Senatus Academicus donated £100 and £500 respectively to the cause.[7][8][9] This £15,600 (£2,000,000 in 2019 money) was used to hire an architect, Sydney Mitchell, and begin construction of the Union building adjacent to the Medical School and the Reid Concert Hall. Teviot Row House was officially opened on 19 October 1889, and is the oldest purpose-built student union in the world. EUU was constituted as an autonomous organisation, and did not admit women until 1971.

The Edinburgh University Women's Union was founded in October 1905, later moving to premises at 16 Chambers Street and renaming itself to the Chambers Street Union in 1964. The King's Buildings Union was established in 1931 in huts formerly used by the Geology department, before moving into a custom building in 1939.[10]

1970–2000: Merger[edit]

On 1 July 1973 the SRC, the EUU and the Chambers Street Union merged to form Edinburgh University Students' Association.[11] Due to reference in the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889, the SRC could not be dissolved at the time of merger. Through the SRC, EUSA is the oldest students' union in the UK.[12] In 1994 the University forced the merger of the King's Buildings Union and EUSA, although the members of KB Union voted against the proposed merger.[13]

Due to the University merging with other organisations, since 1994, EUSA has merged with the Moray House Institute of Education Union and the Edinburgh College of Art Union.

In 1976 EUSA disaffiliated from the National Union of Students (NUS),[14] a decision that was reversed in 2004.[15] In 2005 EUSA formally twinned with Birzeit University Student Council, West Bank, with each union hosting delegations from the other.[16][17][18]


Following a student consultation process and a referendum in February 2012 a new constitution was established in 2011 and amended in 2013. This took full effect in 2014, incorporating the Association as a charitable company limited by guarantee.[19][20][21] This constitution also had the effect of changing some democratic processes, including establishing the Board of Trustees in its current form.[22]

In 2016 EUSA became the first students union in the UK to affiliate to Students for Cooperation as an affiliated supporter in order to promote and support student led cooperatives. EUSA submitted a proposal to NUS Scotland for affiliation with Students for Cooperation, which was accepted.

EUSA's logo until September 2016

Also in 2016, EUSA sabbatical officers and management submitted a referendum to the student membership over whether to change the Association's name to "University of Edinburgh Students' Union", alongside a number of internal administrative changes. The name change was rejected by 69.9% of students.[23] EUSA then embarked on a major rebranding programme, changing the logo and encouraging the organisation to be referred to as "the Association", or "your Students' Association" instead of "EUSA".[24]


EUSA was criticised in 2013 after acting using the Court of Session to "censor" The Student as it "was due to publish details of the suspension of Max Crema, vice-president of services at the union". President James McAsh defended the action, claiming it was taken "to protect the rights of our employees".[25][26][27]

In 2013, EUSA made the decision to ban the playing of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke in its venues, attracting some attention in national media.[28][29] The song was deemed to promote "an unhealthy attitude towards sex and consent", and for being in breach of EUSA's 'End Rape Culture and Lad Banter on Campus' policy, designed to tackle 'myths and stereotypes around sexual violence' and stop the sexual objectification of female students.[30]

In 2014, EUSA was threatened with legal proceedings by the National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Charlie Kimber, following a motion[31] put forward banning the SWP from the Edinburgh campus due to the 'Comrade Delta' rape scandal. EUSA eventually withdrew the motion. This also resulted in the editors of The Student newspaper, an EUSA society, manually ripping pages out of their own newspapers to avoid personal legal liability, as the story about the motion had already been printed before it was withdrawn.[32][33]


EUSA's activities include representing and campaigning on behalf of students, the administration of societies, running a network of bars and other venues, organising volunteering opportunities and providing numerous welfare and advice services.[34] EUSA also directly organises regular events such as Freshers' Week, club nights, pub quizzes, band nights, various comedy events, and the Graduation Ball.


Edinburgh students protest in London against fee rises

Since 2010, EUSA has supported campaigns for same-sex marriage,[35] against tuition fee rises and education cuts,[36] and for better private tenancy rights;[37] EUSA also lobbies the University on internal issues, such as on-campus child care. It has also had a significant role in the overhaul of the University's student support structure,[38] and in making Edinburgh Scotland's first Fairtrade University in 2004.[39][40][41][42] In 2007, following several years of pressure from EUSA, the University Senate revoked Robert Mugabe's honorary degree that had been awarded in 1984 "for services to education in Africa".[43]


EUSA supports and oversees over 280 affiliated societies.[4] There are societies for most academic disciplines, political parties, nationalities and minority groups.

Student theatre at Edinburgh is particularly active. The Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC) was founded in 1896 as the Edinburgh University Drama Society, and since the early 1980s has run Bedlam Theatre, the oldest student-run theatre in Britain, and The Improverts, the city's longest-running improvised comedy troupe. Edinburgh University Footlights and Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) are musical theatre societies, the latter having an emphasis towards the Savoy operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Theatre Paradok are dedicated to experimental theatre.

Music is a large part of EUSA's output. The Edinburgh University Music Society founded in 1867 is the second oldest music society in the United Kingdom. With a Symphonic Chorus of up to 200 members, a full size Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonia, EUMS performs up to seven concerts a year in the university. The university is also home to the Edinburgh University Renaissance Singers conducted by University Lecturer Noel O'Regan.

Media-themed societies include The Student (Edinburgh's own student newspaper), Fresh Air (a student radio station, online-only since 2008), the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (EMPS), the Edinburgh Film Society and most recently EUTV, Edinburgh University Television Station. In 2019, the Edinburgh University Bad Film Society was officially registered with EUSA. To date, it is the first known university society of its ilk and has truly subverted what is expected from a media society.

Charitable and campaigning societies are numerous, including Edinburgh Global Partnerships and the Edinburgh branches of the Nightline support hotline and People & Planet charitable network.

Buildings, venues and outlets[edit]

Teviot Row House as seen from Bristo Square

EUSA operates 13 bars, 7 catering outlets, 5 shops, a catering company (Honours Catering) and numerous other services located across various sites.[4] Most of these buildings are operated as Edinburgh Fringe venues during August.

  • Teviot Row House is the largest EUSA building and the oldest purpose built student union building in the world. Located on Bristo Square, Teviot contains six bars (The Library Bar, The Sports Bar, The New Amphion, The Lounge Bar (informally known as The Jazz Bar), Teviot Underground and The Loft Bar), a small nightclub (Teviot Underground) and a variety of meeting rooms and halls. Following a fire at Gilded Balloon's Grassmarket venue, Teviot is now their primary base during the Fringe.
  • The Pleasance provides EUSA societies with meeting space during semesters. It also has two bars and a theatre with an approximate capacity of 300. It is located next to the University's Centre for Sport and Exercise. During the Fringe, The Pleasance is run by the Pleasance Theatre Trust Ltd[44] as the "Pleasance Courtyard".
  • Potterrow, is also located on Bristo Square. With its distinctive dome, this building includes two shops, two cafes, a 1200 capacity nightclub, the Activities Office, a student support centre (The Advice Place) and EUSA's main administrative offices. Potterrow is also run by the Pleasance Theatre Trust during the Fringe, along with many other Fringe venues, and is branded as the "Pleasance Dome".
  • King's Buildings is the home of most of the College of Science and Engineering, located in the south of the city. King's Buildings House includes a bar and food outlet, a small gym, a branch of the Advice Place and a small shop. The Magnet Cafe is located in the James Clerk Maxwell Building, and there is another shop on the ground floor of the KB Centre.[45]
  • Pollock Shop is a late opening shop in Pollock Halls.
  • The Peffermill Clubhouse is a bar located at the University playing fields at Peffermill.


EUSA is a democratic membership organisation, a charitable body and a company limited by guarantee, ultimately overseen by a Board of Trustees.

All Edinburgh University students automatically become members of EUSA upon matriculation, though they retain the ability to opt out as per the Education Act 1994.

The Association's day-to-day student leadership is provided by a team of five full-time elected students, the Sabbatical Officers,[46][47] currently:

  • President – responsible for the overall functioning and external politics of the association;
  • Vice President Activities and Services (VPAS) – responsible for activities in relation to student societies and representation to the University and Students' Association on non-academic service provision;
  • Vice President Community (VPC) – responsible for lobbying the University for affordable transport and housing, as well as campaigning on sustainability and community engagement
  • Vice President Education (VPE) – responsible for representing students to the University and beyond on HE and academic matters
  • Vice President Welfare (VPW) – responsible for representing students to the University and beyond on student welfare

Democracy is primarily provided through an open Student Council, which holds elected Officers to account, and creates policy. The Student Council meets in Teviot Row House on the last Thursday in each month during term-time.

Elections are held twice a year, the Spring election and the Postgraduate election in Autumn. The Sabbatical Officers, School Representatives, Section Representatives, Activities Representatives and Liberation Officers are elected in the Spring Elections in an online ballot. Postgraduate positions and any positions not filled in the Spring election are elected in the Postgraduate elections, also held via an online ballot and open to all members of the Association.

These elected representatives form a number of bodies that work throughout the year. The Activities Executive makes decisions relating specifically to student societies, composed of the Vice President (Activities & Services) and activities representatives elected to represent a specific society category. There are a series of open liberation groups (Black Minority and Ethnic, Disabled Students, LGBT, and Women) and student section groups (International, Mature, Carers, Parents, Postgraduate Taught, Postgraduate Research, and Part-Time).

Elected representatives also sit on all major University bodies and subcommittees. Complementing these structures are autonomous school councils and a class representation system providing local, democratic spaces for organising. This organisational structure was designed to help foster a system of participatory democracy throughout the University.[48]

EUSA's financial, legal and employment matters are the responsibility of the Chief Executive and a senior management team, who report to and are held accountable by a Board of Trustees, which currently consists of:

  • The five Sabbatical officers
  • Four student trustees, appointed by the sabbatical trustees for two years.
  • Three external trustees, appointed by the student trustees for no more than three years.

Each Trustee may serve a maximum of two terms. Sabbatical officers must be re-elected to office, and Elected or Student Trustees may serve a second term with approval of the Board of Trustees.

EUSA has a fully owned subsidiary company, EUSACO, incorporating any activity which is outside EUSA's charitable remit, such as the Edinburgh Fringe and external catering activities.[49] Responsibility for EUSA's commercial services is delegated by the Board of Trustees to the Strategic Development Subcommittee.

Notable people[edit]

This is an incomplete list of notable former office bearers, staff and others with EUSA and its predecessor unions.


  1. ^ "EUSA Your Representatives". Edinburgh University Students' Association. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Student numbers 2017/18". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Boycotts & Affiliations". Edinburgh University Students' Association. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Finances". Edinburgh University Students' Association. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  5. ^ "OSCR Charity Details". oscr.org.uk. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  6. ^ Wintersgill, Donald. "Bell, Robert Fitzroy (1859–1908)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/100753. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Catto, Iain. (1989). 'No spirits and precious few women' : Edinburgh University Union 1889–1989. Edinburgh University Union. OCLC 26357039.
  8. ^ Turner, A. Logan. (1933). History of the University of Edinburg 1883–1933. OCLC 463015527.
  9. ^ Anderson, R. D. (Robert David) (2003). University of Edinburgh : an illustrated history. Lynch, Michael, 1946–, Phillipson, N. T. (Nicholas T.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748616454. OCLC 54401904.
  10. ^ "History of the College of Science and Engineering". Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  11. ^ Catto, Iain (1989). 'No spirits and precious few women' – Edinburgh University Union – 1889–1989. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Union. p. 120.
  12. ^ Denton, Steve; Brown, Sally, eds. (2009). A Practical Guide to University and College Management Beyond Bureaucracy. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis. p. 86. ISBN 9780203874554.
  13. ^ Wilson, Graeme (2 June 1994). "Students Protest at Merger Decision – Edinburgh University". The Scotsman.
  14. ^ Tom, McConnell (5 February 1979). "Court move against student in union referendum tussle". The Glasgow Herald.
  15. ^ University of Edinburgh Journal. 42–43: 77. 2005. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Visit to Birzeit University from Edinburgh University Student Association". Birzeit University. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  17. ^ "Right to Education/Birzeit Twinning EUSA resolution". Edinburgh University Students for Justice in Palestine. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  18. ^ "Right to Education/Birzeit Twinning". Edinburgh University Students' Association.
  19. ^ Guide to the Students' Association 2017/18 (PDF), pp. 12–13
  20. ^ EUSA Annual Report & Accounts 2011–12 (PDF), p. 5
  21. ^ EUSA Annual Report & Accounts 2012–13 (PDF), p. 4
  22. ^ Articles of Association of Edinburgh University Students' Association, As amended by special resolution 5 June 2013 (PDF)
  23. ^ "Elections". www.eusa.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  24. ^ "New Students' Association logo". www.eusa.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  25. ^ "EUSA hits back in Student newspaper censorship furore". The Journal. February 2013. Archived from the original on 24 February 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  26. ^ Sherriff, Lucy (7 February 2013). "Student Paper Gagged By Its Own Union". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  27. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20130208072341/http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/10094-editorial-i-may-not-like-what-you-say. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ Michaels, Sean (13 September 2013). "Blurred Lines banned by Edinburgh University". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Blurred Lines song banned at Edinburgh students' union". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  30. ^ "University of Edinburgh bans Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' from playing on campus". The Independent. 12 September 2013.
  31. ^ "Student Rights – SWP motion shows importance of consistency". www.studentrights.org.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  32. ^ "The Student – Timeline | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  33. ^ "The Student editors vandalise own paper after lawsuit threat from Socialist Worker Party". The Tab Edinburgh. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  34. ^ "About Us".
  35. ^ "Student fury at gay marriage petition names". Edinburgh Evening News. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  36. ^ "Students march to protest education cuts and tuition fee increases". EUSA. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  37. ^ "Students' association launches campaign to protect tenants". Scottish Television. 28 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  38. ^ "Edinburgh University to replace DoS system". The Journal. 18 January 2012. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  39. ^ "Fairtrade and the University of Edinburgh". University of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  40. ^ Ballard, Mark. "Motion S2M-05639: Mark Ballard, Lothians, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 22/02/2007 Fairtrade Fortnight 2007". The Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  41. ^ Stephen Sterling; Larch Maxey; Heather Luna, eds. (2013). "9". The Sustainable University: Progress and prospects. Routledge. ISBN 9781136236938.
  42. ^ Lamb, Harriet (2008). Fighting the banana wars and other fairtrade battles. London: Rider. p. 197. ISBN 978-1846040832.
  43. ^ "Mugabe stripped of degree honour". BBC News. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  44. ^ "About us | Pleasance Theatre Trust".
  45. ^ "Location & map".
  46. ^ EUSA Memorandum and Articles of Association 2017, p. 12
  47. ^ EUSA Resolution of alteration of Articles of Association 2017, p. 1
  48. ^ "Governance". Edinburgh University Students' Association. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  49. ^ "Memorandum Articles of Association" (PDF). Edinburgh University Students' Association. Retrieved 6 August 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°56′42.4″N 3°11′19.1″W / 55.945111°N 3.188639°W / 55.945111; -3.188639