In the summer of this year, 2012, The University of Bristol announced
changes to its policies on the use of its sporting and training facilities. The
university stated that it was now “mandatory to purchase a Sport & Activity
Pass if you intend to play for a University Sports Club which uses University
facilities for training and matches” 1; it will no longer be possible to turn
up and pay. The change in policy marginalises students using the facilities on
a casual basis and threatens many of Bristol’s longest standing societies.
Bristol is one of the only Russell Group universities not to
offer a ‘pay as you go’ system for sports facility use 2. Students must
purchase an annual sports pass to use sports facilities, costing £150 for off
peak membership and £250 for peak membership 1. Comparatively, Imperial
College London offers unlimited use of its pool and gym for free 3 and
Warwick offers students the choice between £49 annual membership or £2.50 pay
and play 4. This makes Bristol one of the least accessible universities for
sport in the country; doing very little to encourage the university’s attempts
to appear as an institute concerned about widening participation.
Hardest hit by these changes are casual users and sports
clubs. One example is the Underwater Club, whose members primarily use the pool
on a pay as you go basis for essential dive training. Last year, the club
carried out training in the evening and ran occasional intensive weekend
sessions. Faced with the new pricing structure, members would be forced to pay
£250 for annual peak membership. Many clubs are finding it cheaper to abandon
university facilities and seek private alternatives; the treasurer of the Life
Saving club asserted “Life Saving would lose most of its remaining core members
and probably a lot of sign-ups... If possible we will be relocating to a nearby
public pool instead”. Unless the
university goes back on its decision, the future of many of Bristol's longest
standing sports clubs will be in jeopardy.
The new policy defies the will of the overwhelming majority
of students, as demonstrated by two motions passed at last year’s UBU AGM. The
first sought to introduce more flexibility to the University Sports Pass,
stating “students should only have to pay for the facilities they wish to use” 5; the motion passed with 86% majority 6. The second proposed to reduce the
cost of using the swimming pool 7 such that it is in line with other swimming
pools in Bristol and was passed with 91% majority 6. The new proposals
conflict with the motions passed and demonstrate a blatant disregard for
The university justifies the sports and activity pass
changes as necessary to alleviate pressure on stretched facilities due to
increasing student numbers 8. However in October 2011, when reflecting on
increasing student numbers, the Vice-Chancellor said “We must maintain our
absolute focus on the overall quality of the student experience including
ensuring the diversity of the student population” and warned “These objectives
are fundamental to what we stand for as an institution and we deviate from
these at our peril.” 9. Evidently, the university has lost sight of its
commitment to ‘the student experience’ and has resorted to pricing students out
The University of Bristol comments that the changes provide
an “improved system that ensures greater clarity, flexibility and
affordability” 8. This comes at a time when the price of annual peak
membership has increased from £200 10 to £250 and that the pay as you go
system has been abandoned 1. Far from being flexible and affordable, the new
policy is expensive, restrictive and elitist.
We, with the full support of the University of Bristol Student’s
Union, demand that the university:
- Reintroduce a pay as you go system for sports facilities
during both peak and off peak periods.
- Revoke the following stipulation, “It is now mandatory to purchase a Sport
& Activity Pass if you intend to play for a University Sports Club which
uses University facilities for training and matches” .
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