YUSU Policy Development Review: The Details

Why are we reviewing the policy development process?

  • YUSU is growing and changing all the time and we want to continually reflect on and adapt the way in which you, our members, can participate in decision-making and shaping the priorities of your union.
  • We know our democratic activities need to reach a wider range of students and be easier to navigate. We know we have to be responsive to your needs and ideas, but also provide a space for you to debate and take action on the big issues at the UoY and in the world beyond.
  • We want to shake up our policy process so that it better enables you to drive change for students and learn more about key issues in York and beyond.

What has happened so far?

  • We appointed an independent consultant to conduct a review of our Policy Process, including the composition and role of the Policy Review Group.
  • They ran focus groups with a range of students, including: College Presidents and Chairs; YUSU Full-time Officers, YUSU Part-time Officers, Student Trustees; members of the current Policy Review Group (PRG); and students who told us they were “unengaged” with YUSU’s democratic activities.
  • The consultant's findings have been condensed down to five big ideas which we now want your views on.

What did the consultation find?

Students identified some strengths in the current system:
  • Officers play a formal role in policy consultation and are responsive to feedback.
  • There is a culture of informal policy development and staff can work well with students to support the development of ideas.
  • Students are submitting policies and it is for anyone.
Students also identified weaknesses:
  • Communication about policy across YUSU - how it is developed and what happens when policy is passed. Students wanted clear communication about how policy is translated into actions.
  • The lack of a role for Colleges in YUSU decision-making.
  • Transparency - there is no perceived accountability in relation to the Policy Coordinator and Policy Review Group. There is also suspicion about the role of staff in decision-making.
  • The development process is limited, there is not enough scope for debate and change and the process is not representative of the wider student body. Students also identified that the current policy process is divorced from what students want and needs to separate different areas of interest - e.g. internal vs external issues.
  • A sense that policy is individually rather than collectively driven.

We concluded that the principles of the new system should be:

  • We want students to be able to shape the priorities and direction of YUSU in multiple ways.
  • We want students to have the opportunity to participate meaningfully and as partners in policy development. This means focussing on how we develop effective and evidence-based policy, rather than just the process of passing or rejections of ideas.
  • We want policy development to be deliberative, giving students the opportunity to debate ideas and identify options and solutions to key questions and problems.
  • We need to have the appropriate checks and balances in place to manage risk.