Statement from the Union President – Students’ Union Redevelopment

21 January 16

There has been a lot of discussion online and in the media about the future of the Students’ Union Building and the Mandela Hall, leading to much rumour, speculation and misinformation.

We have made statements to the media on the issue, but feel that it is important that you, as students and members of the Students’ Union, are given more detail, so that you can have an informed opinion on the future of the Students’ Union Building.

The conversation about the need for the redevelopment of the Students’ Union begun in 2011, based on feedback from you, our members, in several annual surveys and from Clubs and Societies. The feedback highlighted that major investment and improvement is required to meet the needs and expectations of current and future students.

Based on this feedback, the University, in partnership with the Students’ Union, initiated a number of working groups to investigate the feasibility of a major refurbishment or redevelopment of the Students’ Union Building.

The decision that the Students’ Union should participate in this feasibility process was discussed and approved by your elected Students’ Union Council in December 2013.

 I have been involved in the project, both during my time as Student Officer for Equality & Diversity and now as Union President and I have been open and honest about the progress of the project. There has been a limited amount to report over the past number of years as the project has been very much at the discussion stage, but updates on any progress have been made to Student Council.

 Since 2013, we have carried out focus groups, set up a working group with the representatives that you have elected to Student Council and we have included the aspiration for a new building in our new Strategic Plan. This Plan was approved by Student Council and by an all-student vote (referendum) that was put to all 23,000 students in 2015.

As mentioned, this is very much a project in the early stages of development and we will continue to be open and transparent with you about the development of the project throughout. My priority will, of course, be, to ensure that if the redevelopment goes ahead, it serves the needs of Queen’s students and provides you with a full range of support, advice, representational, developmental and commercial services that will significantly enhance your experience at Queen’s.

One of the options being considered is a complete redevelopment of the Union Building. No matter which option is chosen, our goal is to create something that will meet the needs of Queen’s students for decades to come. The Students’ Union in Queen’s has a great history, one that we can be proud of, but we cannot let our past achievements prevent us from providing future students with the best possible experience.

No formal decisions have been made about what might be included in any new redevelopment. The discussion on the size and shape of office space, social space, commercial space, campaigning space, Clubs and Societies resources and entertainments venues is still very much ongoing. But let me assure you that this Student Officer team will be actively involved in the conversations and planning of what will go into the building and will make it a priority that these facilities best reflect the need of our members.

We understand that there have been concerns around the naming of any new building. The support of this team of Elected Student Officers for this project is reliant upon the name of this building, and any potential future building, being called Queen’s University Belfast, Students’ Union.

The University is currently tendering for a professional design team to help us work on the details of what new project may look like. As the discussions progress, we will continue to seek feedback from students. Any major or final proposals will go to your elected Student Councillors for their consideration.

In the meantime, I would encourage you all to make the greatest use possible of your Students’ Union Building and the services that we provide. The most effective way for you to show us what services are important to you is for you to use them!

If you have any queries about the redevelopment project, or want to get involved in any of our Students’ Union campaigns, feel free to get in touch! 

Caoímhe McNeill