Imperial College Union

Imperial College Union
Imperial College Union
Imperial College Union logo
Institution Imperial College London
Location South Kensington, London, England, United Kingdom
Established 1913
President Scott Heath
Other sabbatical officers

Clubs & Societies: Monya Zard
Finance & Services: Michael Foster
Education: Jason Parmar
Welfare: Nicolas Massie

Felix Editor: Matthew Colvin
Members c. 14,500 total
Affiliations Aldwych Group

Imperial College Union is the Students' Union of Imperial College London. It is host to many and varied societies, and has student bars situated around Albertopolis. The Union is based in the north wing of the Beit Quadrangle on Prince Consort Road.



The establishment of a students union was recognised with the construction of the north building of Beit Quad in 1910-11 designed by Sir Aston Webb. The original idea for the building came from Sir Arthur Acland, a member of the governing body, who saw the need for a place for students to congregate and develop a collegiate social life [1].


  • 1907 Formation of Imperial College of Science and Technology incorporating Royal School of Mines, Royal College of Science and City and Guilds College
  • 1907 Imperial College Union formed as a federation of the 3 College Unions
  • 1911 The Union building in South Kensington is constructed
  • 1922 Founder member of NUS (leaves for the first time in 1923)
  • 1949 Felix is founded
  • 1969 First directly elected sabbatical President [1]
  • 1984 The Union starts catering operation
  • 1985 The Union Starts running own bars
  • 1987 First professional welfare advisor at the Union
  • 1988 Imperial College School of Medicine is established at St. Mary’s
  • 1996 Union Council is made the supreme governing body
  • 1997 Union stops running bookshop on campus.
  • 1997 First medical student to be elected President (Andrew Heeps)
  • 1998 First Deputy President (Education & Welfare) Sabbatical
  • 1998 Imperial College School of Medicine merges with Charing Cross and Royal Postgraduate Medical schools
  • 2000 Merger with Wye College and Kennedy Institute
  • 2001 Sir Richard Sykes appointed Rector of Imperial College
  • 2003 College adopts Faculty structure in place of constituent Colleges.
  • 2004 College rebrands as "Imperial College, London"
  • 2005 Union Building Redevelopment - Project starts
  • 2005 First Deputy President(Graduate Students) at the Union.
  • 2006 Union Building Redevelopment - Construction work starts
  • 2007 Imperial College Centenary
  • 2007 The Union rejoins the NUS (again)
  • 2007 Imperial College leaves the University of London
  • 2008 The Union leaves the NUS.


The Union is controlled by a variety of democratically elected representatives who sit on Union committees, control Union resources and represent the views of students to the College and external bodies. The Union is led by officers who act as representatives to the 14,900 Union members. The most senior officers are the five sabbatical officers who work full time for the Union on a variety of areas ranging from commercial services to campaigns and representation. These officers are supported by 28 full time and up to 250 part time staff, and the 1,000 elected officers of the Union's 300+ clubs and societies.

Imperial College Union and the NUS

Imperial College Union is most noted for the history of its relationship with the National Union of Students (NUS). Despite being involved in the founding of the NUS in 1922, Imperial College Union withdrew its membership of the NUS a year later. Since then, Imperial College Union has spent long periods outside the NUS, interspersed with brief periods of membership. A referendum for NUS affiliation held in 2002 was overwhelmingly rejected by members of the Imperial College Union.

In November 2006, after a petition proposed a debate to affiliate with NUS at Freshers' Fair 2006 collected 617 valid signatures, from just above the 5% minimum of Imperial College Union members necessary to call a referendum [2], a referendum was held between Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16 November 2006. The result of this referendum, which had a record turnout of over 30%, was a yes to NUS affiliation by 53.26% for to 46.74% against.

After the failure of governance reform measures supported by Imperial College Union at the NUS conference in 2008, the union council voted in favour of holding a referendum on disaffiliation from the NUS.[2] The resulting referendum showed that the Members of Imperial College Union decided that their Union should no longer affiliate to the National Union of Students. 2074 ballots were cast giving a turnout of 15.4% with the votes being as follows: Yes: 617 (29.7%) No: 1457 (70.3%)

Clubs and Societies

Imperial College Union has the largest number of Clubs and Societies of any student union in the United Kingdom.[citation needed] While the precise number of clubs changes regularly, owing to the relative ease of starting (or closing) a new club, there were 305 as of July 2008. Funding for clubs and societies at Imperial College Union is immense, taking up a sizable portion of the Union's annual subvention provided by Imperial College London.

Clubs and societies at Imperial College Union are grouped by interest and are administered by either Clubs and Societies' Committees (CSCs - e.g. the Recreational Clubs Committee) or Faculty Unions (FUs - e.g. the City and Guilds College Union), who deal with the majority of procedural issues and who are responsible for representing the clubs within their care to Imperial College Union.

The clubs contained within Imperial College are supported by a number of features, including 10 minibuses which are available for clubs to hire. Imperial College also owns a mountain hut in Snowdonia, Wales, which it lets clubs use free of charge.


The main Union bars are located in Beit Quadrangle. There are three:

  • 568 is a bar serving food, with large screens often showing sports events or popular music channels. On Wednesday nights it is turned into a vomit assault course for the benefit of Sports Clubs. It is the longest student bar in London.
  • Metric is a new nightclub with a small stage, which often plays host to DJs or to live bands and rumours of an electronic lighting wall.
  • The Union Bar is a small wood-panelled bar, having the largest selection of real ale in the Union and the boasts the largest collection of pewter tankards in Europe, with many dating back to the early 20th century - each tankard represents a club and only the current or former club presidents are allowed to use the club's tankard. The Union Bar is also home to the infamous "Horn" which holds exactly 1 pint of ale. The origin of the horn is marked in controversy with many claiming is was once ripped from the head of a rampaging rhino. The horn can be seen creating merriment for all on most nights in the Union Bar.

Union also runs the Reynolds Bar situated in Charing Cross Hospital, largely frequented by the students of Imperial College School of Medicine. The bar was originally run by CXWSU for the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School.


Imperial College Union has a student run Cinema located in the Union Concert Hall, in Beit Hall. The Cinema is considered a club under the Arts & Entertainments Board, however provides a service to members and non-members.

The cinema is a professionally equipped cinema with a 33ft screen, Dolby Digital surround sound system, Kinoton projector and seats up to 200. Pre-show advertisements are provide for by Pearl & Dean.

Faculty Union Structure

There are three faculty unions which run as constituent parts of the Union. These are largely historical in origin and retain many traditions, such as their names when most of the actual faculties now have different names. They represent the students in their respective faculties: the City and Guilds College Union (for engineers), the Royal College of Science Union (for scientists) and the Imperial College School of Medicine Students' Union (for medical students). They are all run by part-time officers elected from the student body, with the exception of the Medical Union President, who is an elected full-time sabbatical officer with a one year tenure.

In 2002 the Royal School of Mines Union was absorbed into the City and Guilds College Union and became a clubs & societies committee (CSC). However in 2010 after running autonomously from City and Guilds Union for many years. The Royal School of Mines regained its student union status, solely looking after the social aspects of its students.

Redevelopment of the Union Building

As of August 2006 £2.2 million had been raised out of the total £6 million required for the redevelopment of the Union wing of Beit Hall. The project's first phase will include the installation of a lift and inbuilt cash machines as well as adding french doors to Da Vinci's, opening out on to the Quad. Further details of the project can be found here.

All three phases of the building project were completed by 2011, including the full bar and nightclub refurbishment and moving the Union Gym to level 3 of the building.

Former ICU Presidents and Sabbatical Officers

Notable former sabbaticals include:


  1. ^ See Felix issues of "6 March 1969". and "20 March 1969". 
  2. ^ Live! - Council Calls NUS Referendum

External links

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