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Student unions and societies

Every university has a student union, and a plethora of student societies catering for all kinds of interests. Nick tells us all about them here.
Three laughing people in front of Clifford's Tower, York
© University of York

Your university experience is not just shaped by your degree and what academic results you obtain – it is also about the experiences you gain along the way.

Universities and their Student Unions (SUs) have a vast array of opportunities for you to get involved in; whether that be music, volunteering projects, sports, political groups or student media.

At most universities across the UK, the opportunities provided by Students’ Unions are often broken down into core areas of activity:

  • Societies
  • Student Media
  • Sport
  • Volunteering
  • Raising and Giving (RAG).

Student societies provide opportunities for you to meet and socialise with students who share your interests and passions. So whether you fancy starring in a sell-out show; learning about another country; joining together in worship; starting a new sport or hobby; Student Societies are a fantastic way to get involved, learn new skills and make friends. Societies often collaborate with one another to put on joint sessions or events, and they’re all open to everyone. Depending on your university and students’ union, some Societies are completely free to join!

Student media is often a popular choice for students wanting to develop networks, gain valuable employability skills and have fun. Many former student journalists go on to top-level careers in print, broadcast journalism and politics. At the University of York, like at lots of other universities, students can choose from a diverse range of student media groups, including: newspapers, satirical magazines, specialist publications (, history, and film), cinema, TV and radio.

Participating in sport is all about having fun, being social and giving every student the opportunity to get involved. At most universities and SUs, student sports clubs are shaped and directed by their members, which means that each club is run by a student committee or collective. Sports clubs will often offer the chance to compete in British University College Sport (BUCS), where students get the opportunity to represent their university against other universities. As well as BUCS, students may also be given the opportunity to get involved in local and regional leagues, as well as participating against other sports clubs or societies within their university.

If volunteering is your thing, universities and SUs are often fantastic at offering a range of voluntary activities on their campuses, in their cities or towns, and even overseas. At the University of York, for example, the SU offers opportunities to work with the elderly, or deliver weekly sports and activity sessions to children with special needs. Volunteering projects help to build supportive, inclusive communities and make university campuses, cities and towns places for everyone.

Most SUs will have a ‘Raising And Giving’ (RAG) society or programme, which offers students a great way to get involved in fundraising for charity. At the University of York, for example, students have done bungee jumps on campus and treks across Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China, whilst raising money for great causes. Many SUs also support you in setting up your own fundraisers if you have a cause you want to raise money for, whether that be mental health, sustainability, or equality and diversity.

Whether it is continuing with an activity you already take part in or trying something completely different from anything you have ever done before, we cannot recommend getting involved enough. You will make lifelong friends, learn new skills and have a great time!

Over to you

  • What clubs and societies might you be interested in joining at university?
  • If you could start your own society (yes, that is possible!) what would your society be about?

We can’t wait to hear your responses to this one! Tell us your answers in the comments below!

© University of York
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