Queen's University Belfast Students' Union

Queen's University Belfast Students' Union (QUBSU) is the official representative body for students at Queen's University Belfast. Membership in the Union is automatic and currently totals 24,560, making it one of the largest Unions on the island of Ireland, and one of the largest in the United Kingdom.[2] The Students' Union derives its existence and authority from the University's Statutes, and so is not entirely independent of it, and must have amendments to its constitution approved by the University Senate. It aims to represent students' interests both with the University and the wider community, to create a sense of student spirit and provide services that aid the students during their time at the University. The Students' Union can trace its origins to the nineteenth century, and has been based on University Road, directly opposite the University's main 'Lanyon Building', since the 1960s.[3]

QUB Students' Union
InstitutionQueen's University Belfast
Location3 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Established 1892 – Students' Union Society
1900 – Representative Council
1966 – QUB Student Union
Sabbatical officers
Connor Veighey
VP Education
Jason Bunting
VP Equality and Diversity
Hamsavani Rajeswaren
VP Postgraduate
Gift Sotonye-Frank
VP Student Activities
Ellen Fearon
VP Welfare
Ciarán O'Brien
AffiliationsAldwych Group
National Union of Students (UK)
NUS-USI: Student Movement NI
Union of Students in Ireland


The history of the Students' Union can be traced back to the late nineteenth century and to what was then Queen's College, Belfast, which was founded in 1845 and became a separate university in 1908. Student facilities at the College remained minimal until the establishment of the all-male Students' Union Society (SUS), which began fundraising with the support of the College's management to build a dedicated Students' Union building providing services to the College's 400 students. The SUS was responsible for managing the Students' Union building which was located on University Square and was opened on 19 January 1897 by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, George Cadogan, 5th Earl Cadogan during celebrations to mark the College's Golden Jubilee and had been built at a cost of £8,000.[4] The facilities offered by the Students' Union included a shop, cloakroom, billiards and smoking room and meeting and debating chambers as well as a dining room, which was the only part of building always opened to women students.[5] Women had first been admitted to Queen's in September 1889 and in response to the male make-up of the SUS, the Women Students' Hall Society (WSH) was established in 1927 and became based in numbers 20 and 21 on the opposite side of University Square to the Students' Union building.[6]

In 1900, the students' representative council (SRC) was established to provide representation to the institution's students in relations with management and staff, this was in contrast to the mainly social activities of the SUS and the WSH, who were both recognised societies of the SRC. The SRC had offices on University Square, close to the WSH premises and held its meetings in the Union building. These three student organisations came together in 1965 to address ways that they could work better and be more inclusive of all students at the University, in advance of the opening of a new Union building opposite the main Lanyon Building on University Road. This resulted in the establishment of a combined constitution for the three which were to be known as the students' representative council of the Students' Union, which took effect from 1 October 1966.[7] Its name was shortened to the Students' Union in 1975, with the SRC renamed the Students' Union Council in the early 2000s.[8]

As student numbers grew throughout the twentieth century (reaching 2,500 by the 1950s), the University tried to procure a new location for the Union and purchased a premises adjacent to Belfast City Hospital which had formally been the Deaf and Blind Institution, but the state of the building meant that another alternative had to be found. The University then decided to demolish the Queen's Elms building at the corner of University Road and Elmwood Avenue, and build a new Union from scratch, which was opened in 1967.[5] A plan to demolish the Union building and replace it with what was called 'Lanyon II' three decades later was denied planning permission and so the decision was taken to redevelop the existing building and bring it up to modern standards. The original building had been constructed to cater for 6,000 and was struggling to cope with a student population that had reached almost 25,000 by 2005.[5] The result was a £9 million facelift which began in 2005, and officially reopened on 21 March 2007. The work had been funded through donations from the University and Alumni, but the bulk came in the form of large loans being taken out by the Union.[9]


Students' Union Council (SUC)

Currently, the Union is governed by an Executive Committee who are aided by a number of full-time staff, and answerable to the Students' Union Council (SUC). In the past, the SU had gained a reputation for being highly politicised and sectarian through the nature of debates and motions before the SRC, and through official policies. In recent years, sectarianism has become less of an issue as Northern Ireland society becomes progressively more normalised.

Elections for the SUC take place in October and seats are filled through proportional representation (PR), with constituencies representing each faculty. The elections in 2007, saw the use of online voting for the first time, resulting in a substantial rise in the number of people who both sought election and voted.[10] Following the changes made to the constitution and constitutional rules in 2007, the number of Councillors was reduced to one hundred from around 160; the move is an attempt to streamline the process and increase competition for seats. The SUC also elects the membership of several committees which oversee the work of the relevant elected officers and formulate Union policy. The Union Speaker chairs meetings of the SUC and is elected at the inaugural meeting of the SUC each year in late October/early November.


The Executive Management Committee (EMC) of the Union comprises the six sabbatical (full-time) officers, which was reduced from seven from the 2016/17 academic year, and the Director and Deputy Director. In addition to this, there are 16 non-sabbatical (part-time) officers, including the Union Speaker, who also sit on the EMC. The EMC is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day work of the Union and works with the Management Board in setting strategy and measuring outputs, with the Management Board also having a number of external 'trustees' and representatives from the University.

The sabbatical officers are elected in March every year, take office from 1 July and represent the students in dealings with the University and other groups.[11][12]

In November 2018, the Students' Union Council voted to create two new non-sabbatical officer positions: the Trans Students' Officer and the Irish Language Officer.


Advice Centre

The Union provides an 'Advice Centre' that offers guidance to students in the areas of accommodation, academic affairs, student finance, counselling and welfare. These services are provided by the executive officers in addition to a permanent team of advisors.

Clubs and societies

There are more than 50 sporting clubs, including Football (QUB AFC), hockey (QUB Hockey), boating (QUB Boat Club) and Gaelic games. As well as this there are more than one hundred non-sporting societies, including cultural groups like An Cumann Gaelach and the Ulster-Scots Society, gaming societies such as the Dragonslayers, activism societies like the Belfast chapter of oikos International, Amnesty International and debating groups such as the Literary and Scientific Society (Literific) and QUB Model UN, while most of the University's schools and departments also have a corresponding society such as the Law Society and the Belfast Medical Students Association (BMSA). There are also multiple societies serving international students, such as the International Students Society (QISS) and the Malaysian Students Society (MSSNI). Clubs and societies receive annual grants from the University via the VP Student Activities to carry out their educational roles; however, although political clubs and religious societies (such as the Christian Union and the Humanist Society) receive official recognition from the SU Council, they do not receive money from the Union. Most of the main political groups on the island are present at Queen's including: Labour Students (the student wing of the British Labour Party), Northern Ireland Conservative Future (the youth movement of the British Conservative Party), the Young Greens, Queens's Alliance (part of Alliance Youth), Ógra Fianna Fáil (the first branch in Northern Ireland), the Democratic Unionist Association, the Young Unionists, SDLP Youth, Sinn Féin Republican Youth, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.[13]

Queen's Students' Union is the long term venue of Q-Con, one of the largest gaming conventions in the UK and the largest in Ireland. It is an event critically acclaimed[14][15] by members of the gaming industry, in particular because it is organised exclusively by the members of the Queen's University Dragonslayers society.

The Union also provides facilities for these societies within the Union, including several club rooms and a resource centre, while the former Snack Bar is used by the larger societies. The Space (formerly the Beech Room) can be partitioned to allow clubs and societies to use parts of it.

Commercial services

The commercial services of the Union have changed since it first opened, and once included a laundrette and even baths. There are several different businesses based in the actual building, space is rented to a coffee chain franchise, a pharmacy, a Santander branch and a used bookshop.

However, the main bulk of commercial activity is carried out by the Union itself, including at BarSub, Bunatee Bar, Mandela Hall, the Snooker Rooms, the Speakeasy Bar and SU Shop (including Ticketmaster).[citation needed]


The Students' Union has four licensed entertainment venues; Mandela Hall, Speakeasy Bar, Bunatee Bar & Bar Sub. The combined capacity of the building's entertainment venues is over 2000, dwarfing that of its nearby private competitors. The Students' Union's Freshers Ball, Halloween Ball and St Paddy's Party are the biggest student nights in Belfast with all these venues sold out.

The Mandela Hall is ones of Belfast's most popular live music venues. In the 2009–10 academic year, it hosted Slash, Feeder, Mumford & Sons, Ocean Colour Scene, Little Boots and Airbourne. The Union promotes live music under the "RADAR" brand. Thursday nights in the Speakeasy are home to "RADAR LIVE", the Union's local music night.

The Union provides a year long entertainment calendar, focusing on the two Queen's University semesters. Entertainment includes multi-venue club nights, traditional music, quizzes, Queen's Comedy Club and theme nights. The Students' Union provides a value offering for its members, with drink prices and promotions remaining consistently cheaper than local competitors. It has, however, come under criticism for being more expensive than Unions in Great Britain. It is one of the cheapest Union's in Ireland.


The past several years have seen the growth of student media within the Union, which now includes print, web and broadcast. The Gown is seen as the paper of record of the Union although it is entirely independent and relies solely on advertising revenues. The Union has also funded its own publication for several decades, but following the failure of several different papers in previous years, the SU Mag was launched in September 2007 by former Deputy President Sarah McCaffrey. The SU Magazine went on to win the Best Student Magazine of the Year and Best Design and Layout at the annual Student Media Awards in Dublin. Plans were also announced by Sarah McCaffrey in November 2007 to launch a Union television station called 'SU TV' which would initially be broadcast in the Union and on a re-launched 'SU Website', it is expected to be up and running in early 2008 and will use the studio in the Union building built by the University's Film Studies Department. The Union is also home to the student station, Queen's Radio (QR) who broadcast on 1134MW in a 12-mile radius from a transmitter based in the Students' Union, as well as online via their website. Unlike SU TV, Queen's Radio is an official society and independent of the Union. The station is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland and has one of the largest membership of any QUB society. All four media outlets, regardless of their status, are, or will be based, primarily in the Union building.


RAG (Raise and Give) is the official charitable fundraising group of the SU, although it is operated in a similar way to societies, it is monitored by the SUC and the constitution states that the Vice-President Student Activities is the group's treasurer. RAG chooses four local charities on an annual basis and raises money through a variety of fund raising events and coordinates 'RAG Week'. The group also raises money through the publication of its annual joke book, 'PTQ'. This year, RAG's President is Paul Loughran.


The Students' Union at Queen's is affiliated with two major groups, the oldest of these is NUS-USI, which was set up at the height of the Troubles in 1972. The group brings together the Students' Unions from across Northern Ireland and its unique set-up means that Unions are members of both the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). In 2007 Queen's officially became a member of the Russell Group, (an alliance of twenty prestigious research universities across the UK) following this, the Students' Union joined the Aldwych Group (an alliance of the Unions whose universities belong to the Russell Group).

Notable former presidents

Until the establishment of the Students' Union in 1966, there were three main student organisations at Queen's. The first of these was the students' representative council which was located on University Square and was responsible for representing all students to the University's management. There were also two other groups who served a more social function in student life, the Students' Union Society was based in the Union building and was for male students only, while the Women Students' Hall provided some of the same services to female students and was located on University Square. In 1966 these three were merged to form Queen's University Belfast Students' Union.


  1. "Table 0a – All students by institution, mode of study, level of study, gender and domicile 2005/06". Higher Education Statistics Agency online statistics. Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  2. "HESA - Experts in higher education data and analysis". Hesa.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  3. "QUBSU Constitution (19 June 2007)". Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  4. "Jubilee of Queen's College Belfast". The Irish Times: 9. 20 January 1897.
  5. Queen's University Belfast. "History of the Students' Union". Retrieved 6 June 2011.[permanent dead link]
  6. Queen's University Belfast. "Walkabout Queen's: A guide to the main campus (PDF)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  7. Brian Walker and Alf McCreavey (1994). Degrees of Excellence: The Story of Queen's, Belfast, 1845–1995. Belfast: Queen's University Belfast. p. 126. ISBN 0-85389-535-X.
  8. Clarkson, L. A. (2004). A university in troubled times : Queen's Belfast, 1945 – 2000. Dublin [u.a.]: Four Courts Press. p. 141. ISBN 1-85182-862-1.
  9. "Students' Union Redevelopment Appeal". Archived from the original on 23 May 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  10. The Gown: 'Online voting proves a winner in SRC Elections', Thegown.blogspot.com, Retrieved on 31 January 2008]
  11. QUBSU Executive Committee. Qubsu.org, Retrieved on 31 January 2008]
  12. [dead link]
  13. "QUB Clubs and Societies". Quis.qub.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  14. "Planet Mongoose – Post details: Q-Con Con Report". Blog.mongoosepublishing.co.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  15. "IrishGaming.Com :: View topic – QCon & Qnightmare". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2008.