Cambridge University Students' Union

Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) is the university-wide representative body for students at the University of Cambridge, England. CUSU is a federal body made up of individual college student unions (known as JCRs and MCRs).

Cambridge University Students' Union
InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
LocationSU Building, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
PresidentEdward Parker Humphreys (Jesus)
Sabbatical officers
AffiliationsNational Union of Students, UKCISA

CUSU should not be confused with the Cambridge Union Society (often referred to as simply 'the Union'); membership of both is open to all students at Cambridge, but the Cambridge Union Society is a private society, whereas all students at the University of Cambridge are automatically members of CUSU (although they can opt-out), and CUSU is partially funded by grants from the University.

Graduate students at Cambridge University are eligible for membership of CUSU as well as the University of Cambridge Graduate Union, specifically for graduate student affairs. In November 2019, students voted by referendum to dissolve both CUSU and the Graduate Union to form one student union, Cambridge SU.[1]


CUSU was founded as the Cambridge Students' Union (CSU) in 1971 to represent all higher education students studying in Cambridge, that is students attending the University of Cambridge plus undergraduates at CCAT (the then Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, which in 1993 became Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). CSU also represented students at Homerton College, then a separate teacher training college in the city.

CSU during its early years from 1971 to 1974 received support from CCAT Students' Union as CCATSU was from the 1960s the only large NUS-affiliated, and conventionally funded, students' union in Cambridge. CSU in turn supported CCATSU in its campaigns to get more student housing provided for CCAT degree students, a serious issue for the college by the early 1970s. CCATSU and CSU went their separate ways after 1974.

CSU was formally recognised by the Cambridge University authorities on 25 May 1984 and renamed, following a student referendum in March 1985, as CUSU - Cambridge University Students Union. CSU's second president, in 1972, was Charles Clarke, later a Labour MP, Secretary of State for Education and Home Secretary.

There had been previous university-wide groups, such as CAMNUS (Cambridge NUS), which was founded in 1964 by Gordon Heald, John Bibby and others. CAMNUS arranged certain university-wide student facilities, such as 'CAMNUS Coaches' (an end-of-term bus service to all parts of the country), and an inter-collegiate mail service.


CUSU holds elections annually for 6 full-time officers, several part-time officers and a number of delegates (5 at present, with the President making the 6th delegate ex officio) to the National Union of Students (NUS) Annual Conference.

The full-time officers take a one-year sabbatical from their studies (or directly after they have graduated) and are:

  • President
  • Access and Funding Officer
  • Disabled Students' Officer
  • Education Officer
  • Welfare & Rights Officer (joint with the Graduate Union)
  • Women's Officer

There are also seven CUSU Campaigns, which are semi-independent bodies, with six of which representing a particular subset of students. They are:

  • LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)
  • International (iCUSU): international students
  • Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Campaign: Black and minority ethnic students
  • Women's Campaign, known as "WomCam" (the Chair of which is the sabbatical Women's Officer)
  • Disabled Students' Campaign (the Chair of which is the sabbatical Disabled Students' Officer)
  • Class Act, representing students from working-class and disadvantaged educational backgrounds
  • Ethical Affairs Campaign, which leads CUSU's work on ethical and environmental issues in the University and wider society

The chairs of the CUSU campaigns may only be elected by members of that campaign.


In March 2006, the largest Cambridge college students' union, Trinity College Students' Union voted to disaffiliate from CUSU for the academic year 2006/2007. Several other colleges were reported to be also considering the option.[2] Trinity College Students' Union reaffiliated in early 2007, following re-engagement work by the incumbent sabbatical officers. On 14 November 2010, both the JCR and MCR of Corpus Christi College disaffiliated, following a college-wide ballot in which 71% of undergraduates and 86% of postgraduates voted in favour of disaffiliation.[3] Also, in November 2013 Gonville and Caius College disaffiliated following a referendum which saw a result of 213 votes for disaffiliation and 91 votes against.[4]

In 2015 the University had to give CUSU a £100,000 bailout, but incumbent President Priscilla Mensah denied that this was due to financial mismanagement.[5][6]

In 2019, CUSU presented a surplus budget, ending what the Union described as “a few difficult years in recent history” with regards to its financial situation.[7]

Former Presidents and Sabbatical Officers

Notable former officers and sabbaticals include:


  1. "Cambridge Students voted yes to a new single students' union – CUSU". CUSU. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  2. "Home | Varsity Online". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  3. "corpusJCR - News article". Archived from the original on 2014-01-19. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  4. "Caius votes to disaffiliate".
  5. "CUSU in cash crisis". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  6. "Another £100,000 please! CUSU is CU-Screwed after finance goes astray". 2 October 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  7. "CUSU 2019-20 budget predicts surplus for first time in recent years". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
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