After arriving in Cardiff to start my first year at university, and whilst in the midst of investing my student loan on a number of things during Freshers’ Week, I did what most returning students and first years do, and visited the Societies Fair. True, the event was enlivened by the fact that there was free Dominos pizza there, but the main reason for going was to join a society or a sports club in order to socialise with more people and truly live the ‘uni life’.
At first glance, this appeared to be a good deal; there’s usually a small fee to join the vast majority of societies, with sports costing slightly more, which made sense. It was only afterwards, when registering to join societies and the Karate club online, that problems began to arise. In my opinion, the £5 fee to join the Guild of Societies is not too steep, and generally worth it in terms of access to joining the other societies for the rest of the year. Also, as the fee to join each society was relatively inexpensive, (I joined five for a bill of around £20 plus membership) so I thought this was a generally good deal.
The main issue I had was with the sports fee, especially after learning that the additional club costs were also rather expensive. For example, I paid £30 to join Karate including the membership, which didn’t cover the cost of each training session, rather the insurance to do it. As was the case with the societies, I only needed to pay £15 once, but, unlike the previous payment, I came to realise that many students, myself included, only really had the time to do one sport in addition to societies, especially when these were sports which involved intense and time-consuming training sessions, such as rugby, rowing and football. This essentially makes the cost of joining the football club £50 for most people then, a fee which doesn’t include the cost of any socials, the special tie or any of the university branded ‘Rhino’ tracksuit and hoodie combo.
In an age when the financial pressure on students is being cranked up at a ridiculous rate, this system appears to be ludicrous. However, it is my opinion that the issue most pressing with the Guilds is that their role just isn’t very well marketed. For example, I only became aware of the fact that the Athletic Union can subsidise some of the costs of new kit for certain clubs earlier this week, meaning that the students have to pay less. Yet, their role is mostly unknown, as I’m not aware if the joining fee is used to upkeep the Sport Centre and facilities, or if it’s used for future improvements, or if that comes straight from the University.
Therefore, I feel as if these membership fees are, at face value, small, pesky, annoying things that seem to be simply asking for more cash from students. Whilst this is not a major problem with the Guild of Societies, I imagine a lot of students who are worse off and have less money to spend on leisure are deterred by the cost of joining, and then the additional add-ons like kit and competitions. I believe that this is more a problem of marketing, and if the Athletics Union were clearer about what the fees are actually used for, or could help students out more by subsidising certain larger purchases, these costs would be more justified, and perhaps less students would be pushed out due to financial concerns.