5 Student Officers posing in a group.

Our History

Arts Students' Union has been in existence since before UAL was renamed in 2004, from its previous title of London Institute, which was established in 1986. Originally called SUARTS (Students' Union Arts), the union also renamed itself its current title in 2014.
  • 2020 and beyond

    As part of its commitment to be sector-leading in working conditions for its staff, Arts SU signed a landmark agreement with GMB trade union, making Arts SU one of the few students' unions in the UK with a trade union recognition agreement.?

    As a result of Arts SU's lobbying on inclusivity,?UAL committed to?Compulsory Disability Awareness Training for all UAL staff.

    Following the publication of the SU's Cost of Study research, the university agrees to a number of demands, including?increasing the UAL hardship fund by over £1 million and allowing students to claim for the cost of materials for the first time.

  • 2019

    • The University of the Arts London Students’ Union (Arts SU) ends its partnership with the London School of Economics Students’ Union (LSESU), giving the Union greater autonomy.
    • The SU publishes an Attainment Gap Report in order to highlight the role of race, class and privilege play at UAL. As a result of the reports recommendation, the university commits to introducing compulsory in-person unconscious bias training for all UAL academic staff.
    • Following the SU’s publication of a Cost of Study report the previous year, the university agrees to a number of demands made as part of the Union’s Cut the Cost of Study campaign, allocating £250,000 a year for a materials grant and hardship funds.
    • In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Union urges the university to act quickly in order to provide students the support they need during this time, and ensure that they are able to continue their learning outside of the physical classroom. To combat feelings of loneliness, the Advice team launches a Companion Scheme for students, while the current Sabbatical Officers work closely with UAL’s Senior Management and Governors to ensure that decisions being made in response to the crisis do not unfairly impact students.

    • In direct response to lobbying from the Students’ Union, the university launches a plan to install a lift at Camberwell College of Arts in order to improve disabled access in the building.

  • 2018

    • After nearly two years of SU lobbying, the university agrees to reduce printing costs for students by 20%. This achievement is part of the Union’s Cut the Cost campaign, which urges the university to reduce the cost of study incurred by students in addition to their tuition fees.
    • UAL reduces the cost of guest graduation tickets from £45 to £20 after almost a year of lobbying from the SU’s Sabbatical Officers at the time.
  • 2017

    • The SU holds its first Raising and Giving (RAG) week, with student-led activities and fundraisers for charities such as MIND.
    • The SU launches the Liberating the Curriculum campaign as part of its goals to represent the diversity of the university’s student body.
    • UAL implements online unconscious bias training for all staff after continuous pressure from the SU to eliminate hidden bias and discrimination.
  • 2016

    • The university agrees to a rent freeze on all halls for the 2016/17 academic year after lobbying from the SU.
    • After being provided with SU-led research in November 2015, the university agrees to make the SU’s proposed changes to the extenuating circumstances (ECs) process from the 2016/17 academic year. Changes such as the submission of ECs forms via email were lobbied for in order to make the process more accessible, while no longer needing to supply a police report under grounds such as sexual assault aimed to provide extra support for student survivors.
    • The University of the Arts London Students’ Union undergoes a rebrand from SUARTS to Arts SU.
    • With support from the Students’ Union, students at the London College of Communication successfully lobby for new storage facilities to be installed in the college.
    • After launching a #FixTheFees campaign, the SU’s Sabbatical Officers at the time succeed in getting the university to agree not to raise the fees for continuing home and EU students for the following year.
    • Following extensive campaigning from the SU, the university agrees to increase its budget for counselling by £250,000. With this funding, they are able to double the number of mental health advisors, hire two more full-time counsellors and extend counselling hours to weekends and evenings in response to a student wellbeing survey conducted by the SU.
    • The SU worked with library services to design bookmarks to nominate authors of colour for procurement. This led to library services investing £3500 in new books from and about artists & writers of colour, as well as women, LGBTQ+, disabled & international authors.
  • 2015

    • The university agrees to reduce the cost of colour printing by 50% in response to lobbying from the SU.
    • The SU successfully gets the London College of Fashion to abolish the £120 ?‘participation fee’ for students in the LCF Internal Friends and Family Show.
    • After extensive lobbying from the SU, the university agrees to provide longer opening hours in every college, as well as to provide 24-hour library access at CSM’s Kings Cross for certain days.
    • After extensive lobbying from the SU, the university takes on board feedback from the ‘Cost to Camberwell’ consultation and agrees to take action to minimise disruption faced by Camberwell College of Arts students caused by building works.
    • Following initiatives by the SU to raise awareness and provide support for trans students, such as Trans Awareness Week, the university agrees to implement gender-neutral toilets on all UAL sites.
    • UAL students, with the support of the SU, occupy Central Saint Martins in protest against cuts to foundation courses.
    A photograph of the Students' Union LCC office
  • 2014

    • The SU establishes a Disabled Students Committee to provide students with the opportunity to consult UAL on issues that affect them directly.
    • As a result of lobbying by the SU, the university implements quiet or prayer spaces on every campus.
    • The SU’s campaign with the GMB for a Living Wage for all UAL workers wins the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Youth Campaign of the Year award.
    • The university commits to paying all outsourced cleaners the London Living Wage following immense pressure from the SU.
    • The university makes a formal commitment to keeping Wednesday afternoons free for undergraduate students, following SU lobbying.
    • As part of its commitment to provide essential services to students, the SU begins to subsidise sanitary products in order to dispense them for free.
    • After the SU publishes its research into international student scholarship, the university commits to provide ten scholarships worth £25,000 each for international students from low and lower-middle-income countries.
  • 2013

    • In response to lobbying from the SU to improve the standard an provision of support services for students, UAL introduces a university-wide Disability and Dyslexia Service, which the SU continues to consult on.
    • As part of its commitment to make UAL accessible, the SU leads a campaign (‘The Devil Pays Nada’) to encourage students to fight against unpaid internships and unfair working conditions. With the support of over 2,000 students, the SU lobbies for the university to stop advertising unpaid positions on its creative careers website.
    • The Students’ Union holds a protest at London Fashion Week as part of it’s “The Devil Pays Nada” campaign.
    • The Students’ Union places pressure on UAL to abolish international students’ attendance monitoring following a UKBA statement on visa rules for international students in 2013. Following pressure from the SU, the university relaxes its sign-in policy for international students before abolishing it altogether.
  • 2009

    The University of the Arts London Students’ Union enters into a partnership with the London School of Economics Students’ Union (LSESU). Both organisations remain separate, but share a directorate team among other resources.

  • 2004

    The University of the Arts London Students’ Union (then branded as SUARTS) in its current incarnation is formed as the London Institute is renamed to University of the Arts London, a year after receiving university status.

  • 1997

    Xhibit is founded by then-students of the London Institute, Kit Hammonds and Angela Robinson. Established as a way to showcase the work of students from all colleges, the programme continues to thrive every year with the support of the Students’ Union to this day.