University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

Working Class and Social Mobility Officer Referendum

A referendum has been called to decide whether YUSU should introduce a new Part-Time Officer position, a Working Class and Social Mobility Officer. The referendum is taking place because, during the policy process that took place in summer term 2017, there was no clear consensus on whether the motion should be passed.


What does the policy say?

The proposed policy outlines that there is currently no dedicated officer that represents students who experience financial hardship or face barriers to participation due to their socio-economic status. The policy notes that other universities have created a similar officer role, such as King’s College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Manchester University.

The policy outlines that the proposed new officer  should carry out the following duties:

  • To represent the interests of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds on campus

  • To campaign and lobby the University in the interest of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds

  • To coordinate opportunities for students from working class backgrounds

  • To chair a network of students  who self-identify as working-class and are care leavers, the first in the family to go to university, or are in receipt of the York Bursary.

The full policy can be found here


What is a Part-Time Officer?

A Part-Time Officer represents a particular demographic (such LGBTQ, disabled, international, mature or BAME students) or a particular interest or cause (such as Volunteering, RAG and Environment and Ethics). Part-Time Officers work with the full-time Sabbatical Officers to represent students within the Union, the University and externally. They run campaigns, coordinate student networks and conduct consultation on policy.


What is a referendum?

A referendum is a vote which decides whether a policy should be passed. A referendum is called when the policy process does not come to a clear consensus on whether a policy should be passed. More information on the policy process can be found here.

Students will be asked to vote yes or no in response to the question:

Should YUSU adopt a new Part-Time Officer position, the Working Class & Social Mobility Officer, who would represent their own network?


Referendum Timeline

  • Thursday 19 October (week 4) - Referendum announced

  • Monday 30 October (week 6) - Referendum rules agreed by PRG and campaign briefing takes place

  • Monday 6 November (week 7) - Referendum Debate, 6pm (P/L/001)

  • Monday 6 November (week 7) - Voting opens at 8.00pm

  • Friday 10 November (week 7) - Voting closes at 5.00pm  


Why does it matter?

During the policy consultation process, arguments for and against were detailed. Below is a summary of some of those arguments.


Campaign team statements


Working class students' views need to be heard. It's not enough to simply say 'more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are at university' because this completely ignores the significant barriers, both social and economic, working class students face. For example, aspects of university life that some may take for granted (e.g. membership of certain societies) may be out of working class students' reach. We want to be represented, to have a voice, and a Working Class Officer is crucial to this. The officer will liaise with their network and resolve any issues they may have. Their focus will be to hold the University and SU to account, to make sure that working class students are always considered in decision making.

Read more about the Yes campaign here


We are against the creation of the Working Class Officer and the Working Class and social mobility network as we believe that it will impede the role of the President. It will mean that in negotiations with the University the President of YUSU will have to take orders from a competing mandate from the WCO about economic issues such as student housing. This will dramatically reduce the bargaining power of our union leader to negotiate with the University. We are against the self defining nature of the network. It will lead to a middle class take-over of the role. The most economically disadvantaged of students have to work a term time job on top of doing a full time degree which doesn't leave enough time to run a network ahead of self defined working class people who are less economically disadvantaged. This drowning out of disadvantaged voices this campaign opposes.

Read more about the No campaign here


What is YUSU’s position?  

The Students’ Union will remain neutral in the referendum. Our priority is 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. Student members, including elected officers are free to participate but they do not represent an official YUSU view on the question.  


How do I campaign?

Any student at the University of York can get involved with campaigning. Contact your campaign leaders for more information:

YES -  Michaela Tharby ( and Connor Drake (

NO - Dominique Samuels (

If you have any complaints please complete the form below and send it to the Deputy Returning Officer at  The external returning officer is Peter Robertson, Deputy Chief Executive, NUS.  

Information on the rules of the referendum can be found in the document below.

Complaints form

Referendum rules

Returning Officer's Report