Imperial College Union

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Imperial College Union
InstitutionImperial College London
LocationSouth Kensington
London, SW7
Established1907; 112 years ago (1907)
Sabbatical officersRob Tomkies (President)

Claudia Caravello (DP Finance and Services)
James Medler (DP Clubs and Societies)
Alejandro Luy (DP Education)

Rebecca Neil (DP Welfare)
Membersc. 17,000 total

Imperial College Union is the students' union of Imperial College London. It is host to many and varied societies, and has student bars situated around Albertopolis. The Union is based in the north wing of the Beit Quadrangle on Prince Consort Road.


The establishment of a students' union was recognised with the construction of the north building of Beit Quad in 1910-11 designed by Sir Aston Webb. The original idea for the building came from Sir Arthur Acland, a member of the governing body, who saw the need for a place for students to congregate and develop a collegiate social life.[1]


  • 1907 Formation of Imperial College of Science and Technology incorporating the Royal School of Mines, the Royal College of Science and City and Guilds College
  • 1907 Imperial College Union formed as a federation of the 3 College Unions
  • 1911 The Union building in South Kensington is constructed
  • 1922 Founder member of NUS (leaves for the first time in 1923)
  • 1949 Felix (newspaper) is founded
  • 1969 First directly elected sabbatical President [2]
  • 1984 The Union starts catering operation
  • 1985 The Union Starts running own bars
  • 1987 First professional welfare advisor at the Union
  • 1988 Imperial College School of Medicine is established at St. Mary’s
  • 1996 Union Council is made the supreme governing body
  • 1997 Union stops running bookshop on campus.
  • 1997 First medical student to be elected President (Andrew Heeps)[3]
  • 1998 First Deputy President (Education & Welfare) Sabbatical
  • 1998 Imperial College School of Medicine merges with Charing Cross and Royal Postgraduate Medical schools
  • 2000 Merger with Wye College and Kennedy Institute
  • 2001 Sir Richard Sykes appointed Rector of Imperial College
  • 2003 College adopts Faculty structure in place of constituent Colleges.
  • 2004 College rebrands as "Imperial College, London"
  • 2005 Union Building Redevelopment - Project starts
  • 2005 First Deputy President(Graduate Students) at the Union.
  • 2006 Union Building Redevelopment - Construction work starts
  • 2007 Imperial College Centenary
  • 2007 The Union rejoins the NUS (again)
  • 2007 Imperial College leaves the University of London
  • 2008 The Union leaves the NUS
  • 2009 First Deputy President (Education) and Deputy President (Welfare)

Relationship with the NUS[edit]

Imperial College Union is most noted for the history of its relationship with the National Union of Students (NUS)[citation needed]. Despite being involved in the founding of the NUS in 1922, Imperial College Union withdrew its membership of the NUS a year later[citation needed]. Since then, Imperial College Union has spent long periods outside the NUS, interspersed with brief periods of membership. A referendum for NUS affiliation held in 2002 was overwhelmingly rejected by members of the Imperial College Union.

In November 2006, after a petition proposed a debate to affiliate with NUS at Freshers' Fair 2006 collected 617 valid signatures, from just above the 5% minimum of Imperial College Union members necessary to call a referendum [2], a referendum was held between Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16 November 2006. The result of this referendum, which had a record turnout of over 30%, was a yes to NUS affiliation by 53.26% for to 46.74% against.

After the failure of governance reform measures supported by Imperial College Union at the NUS conference in 2008, the union council voted in favour of holding a referendum on disaffiliation from the NUS.[4] The resulting referendum showed that the Members of Imperial College Union decided that their Union should no longer affiliate to the National Union of Students.


The Union is controlled by a variety of democratically elected representatives who sit on Union committees, control Union resources and represent the views of students to the College and external bodies. The Union is led by officers who act as representatives to the 14,900 Union members. The most senior officers are the five sabbatical officers who work full-time for the Union on a variety of areas ranging from commercial services to campaigns and representation. These officers are supported by 35 full-time and up to 250 part-time staff, and the 2,600 elected officers of the Union's 320+ clubs and societies.

In 2013, the Union successfully registered as a charity.

Constituent Union Structure[edit]

There are six constituent unions which run as constituent parts of the Union. These are largely historical in origin and retain many traditions, such as their names when most of the actual faculties now have different names. Some represent the students in their respective faculties: the City and Guilds College Union (for engineers), the Royal College of Science Union (for scientists) and the Imperial College School of Medicine Students' Union (for medical students). They are all run by part-time officers elected from the student body, with the exception of the Medical Union President, who is an elected full-time sabbatical officer with a one-year tenure.

In 2002 the Royal School of Mines Union was absorbed into the City and Guilds College Union and became a clubs & societies committee. However, in 2012 after running autonomously from City and Guilds Union for many years, The Royal School of Mines regained its constituent union status, solely looking after the social aspects of its students.

In the same governance review of 2012, Silwood Park Students' Union and the Graduate Students' Association (representing all postgraduate students) also became a constituent union. The Silwood Park Union operates largely independently from the overall Union but has no part or full-time sabbatical leadership.

Clubs, volunteering projects and societies[edit]

Imperial College Union has a large number of student-led clubs, volunteering projects and societies (known as CSPs), with over 400 in total. Funding for CSPs at Imperial College Union is significant, taking up a sizeable portion of the Union's annual subvention provided by Imperial College London, though many clubs supplement this with sponsorship from outside of the Union.

CSPs at Imperial College Union are administered by the Clubs, Societies' and Project Board, who deal with the majority of procedural issues and who are responsible for representing the clubs within their care to Imperial College Union. Clubs are then grouped and fall under smaller organisational boards (e.g. the Athletics Clubs Committee handles the sports clubs).

Examples of notable student groups are Project Nepal which sends Imperial College students to work on educational development in rural Nepal[5] and the El Salvador Project, a construction based project in Central America.[6] Other societies include sports-related societies, such as Imperial College Boat Club and Imperial College Gliding Club; music societies such as Imperial College A Capella, under which The Techtonics won the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in 2016; social societies such as the Imperial College Debating Society. Each department also has its own departmental society.

CSPs are supported by a number of features, including 15 minibuses which are available for clubs to hire. Imperial College also owns a mountain hut in Snowdonia, Wales, which it lets clubs use free of charge.



The Union Building forms the northern side of Beit Quad. The Union Bar, 568, and Metric are on the ground floor

The main Union bars are located on the north side of the Beit Quadrangle. There are three:

  • FiveSixEight is a bar serving food, with large screens often showing sports events or popular music channels.
  • The Union Bar is a small wood-panelled bar, and has existed in its current form since 1956.[7] The bar has a large selection of real ale and claims to boast the largest collection of pewter tankards in Europe, with many dating back to the early 20th century. Each tankard represents an officer of one of the clubs and only the current or former club officers are allowed to use their club's tankards.
  • Metric is a nightclub which opened in November 2010. During term time, Metric often plays host to DJs or to live bands performing to the backdrop of an electronic lighting wall. During the summer Metric hosts some of the Proms Extra events (part of The Proms).

FiveSightEight and The Union Bar are both Cask Marque Accredited.[8]

The Union also runs the Reynolds Bar situated in Charing Cross Hospital, largely frequented by the students of Imperial College School of Medicine. The bar was originally run by CXWSU for the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School.

The Silwood Park campus bar is operated by an external company, although students have pushed for a Union-run bar in recent years. The bar boasts Guinness and Stella Artois Cidre on tap and also has a small selection of bottled ales and ciders. Three flavors of crisps are available to feed hungry patrons. The bar television almost exclusively shows Big Bang Theory, and there is a small stereo in the main room which students can hook up to their own musical collections if desired.


Imperial College Union has a theatre located in the Union Concert Hall (UCH) which is found on the second floor of the Main Union Building, Beit Quad. The majority of performances are put on by the student societies of Imperial College, ranging from serious drama through to Gilbert & Sullivan Marathons. The space is shared with the Imperial College Dramatic Society and Imperial Cinema and other student societies as a multipurpose space. The theatre has a fly tower with a selection of lighting and fly bars, the venue has lectriflex, DMX and sound & comms multicore installed throughout.

In the Summer of 2014 the Union Concert Hall underwent an extensive redevelopment after a grant was awarded to do so. In early 2015, the Dramatic Society installed a considerable amount of brand new cabling which will make the venue even more useful to anyone who wishes to use it.


Imperial College Union has a student run Cinema located in the Union Concert Hall, in Beit Hall. The Cinema is considered a club under the Arts & Entertainments Board, however provides a service to members and non-members.

The cinema is a professionally equipped cinema with a 33 ft screen, Dolby Digital surround sound system, Kinoton (35mm) and Barco (Digital) projectors and seats up to 200. Pre-show advertisements are provided by Pearl & Dean.

Redevelopment of the Union Building[edit]

As of August 2006 £2.2 million had been raised out of the total £6 million required for the redevelopment of the Union wing of Beit Hall. All three phases of the building project were completed by 2011, including the full bar and nightclub refurbishment and moving the Union Gym to level 3 of the building.

Former ICU Presidents and Sabbatical Officers[edit]

Notable former sabbaticals include:


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ See Felix issues of "6 March 1969" (PDF).and "20 March 1969" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Andy Heeps". Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  4. ^ Live! - Council Calls NUS Referendum
  5. ^ Felix Online Archive, November 30 2011 Article on new Project Nepal group at Imperial College and partnership with InterVol. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  6. ^ El Salvador Project Sponsors Page El Salvador Project lists Imperial College Union as an official sponsor. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Beit Venues - The Union Bar".
  8. ^ "Beit Bars Receives Prestigious Cask Marque award".

External links[edit]