University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

Incorporation Referendum – changing YUSU’s legal status.


What’s going on? 

York University Students’ Union’s Board of Trustees would like to change YUSU’s legal status by means of becoming Incorporated as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG).

YUSU will be seeking students’ approval for Incorporation in a referendum that will take place alongside the Officer Elections in February 2017.

Incorporation is the process of changing legal structure.  As an unincorporated association YUSU is not currently recognised as a legal entity in its own right.

The change of form requires the governing document to be a Memorandum and Articles of Association; this replicates YUSU’s existing constitution, reflecting the existing powers of members.  The proposed new governing document is available below.      

Why Incorporate as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee?

  • The process would create a separate legal identity for the Union, reducing risk on individual trustees.  This is positive because over half of the Board is made up of elected student officers and current students.      


  • It means that the assets of the charity could be held directly by the charitable company and not holding trustees.  Because the Union would be regarded as a separate legal entity in its own right, this would arguably give the Union greater independence from the parent institution (the University) than otherwise.  


  • The CLG model is tried and tested; it’s used commonly by Students’ Unions and widely in the charitable sector.


  • The model fits with YUSU’s commitment to be student led. It protects membership rights by legislation with a democratic structure that respects and enshrines those rights, for example, setting out collective rights to change the main governance document and to remove trustees from office.


  • The model brings more transparency with regulation and disclosure requirements that can increase public accountability and confidence; a CLG is subject to regulation under both Charity Law and the Companies Act 2006.


What is a YUSU referendum?

A YUSU referendum is a vote that is open to every student.  Students will be asked to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in response to the statement:

Do you agree that YUSU can change its legal structure to incorporate as a charitable company limited by guarantee? 

To reach quoracy 5% of members must vote.  A referendum is being held in line with the requirements of YUSU’s Constitution.     

“Our consultation on a new name and the recent policy review have told us that our utmost priorities right now must be transparency of decision making, flexibility and improved digital capability and that these things are much more important to students than what we're called.

As a result, when you come to vote this year for your elected officers, you'll also be asked to approve the new legal structure of incorporation as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee. Your Union, YUSU, needs you to say yes to ensure that we have the right governance framework in place to continue to improve accountability and accessibility.”

Millie Beach, YUSU President


​Timeline for the referendum 

  • Tuesday 14 February (week 6)       Referendum announced
  • Monday 20 February (week 7)        Voting opens
  • Tuesday 21 February (week 7)       Referendum debate, 1pm YourSpace, YUSU
  • Tuesday 28 February (week 8)       Voting closes, 5pm


What is YUSU’s position?

The Students’ Union remains neutral in political referendums however this referendum is dealing with a corporate issue that has been approved after extensive debate by YUSU’s Trustees, our highest governing body.  The Elected Student Officers that are members of the Board of Trustees are proposing that the Union incorporates, with members’ authorisation, and they will be urging students to vote ‘yes’ and back incorporation to improve accountability and ensure a robust governance framework for the future.          

As always, our priority remains to ensure a fair and robust debate, rooted in factual information, in which every University of York student that wishes to participate is able to do so. 

How do I campaign? 

Any student at the University of York can get involved with campaigning should contact the Deputy Returning Officer for more information:

Thomas Meares, Democracy & Campaigns Co-ordinator

Further information

Returning Officer Report

The returning officer report for the election can be found here