Guild Referendum

There are no referenda running at the present time.

If you are a current student, you must be logged in to vote.

You can read more about the changes and what’s happened so far below:



What will it mean if you vote…

Yes No
  • Students can submit ideas, feedback or policy online via the Guild website.
  • Students can submit ideas or policy online via the Guild website.
  • A set of new student-led committees (Activites, Education, Welfare & Liberation, Campaigns) will be created with student representation to support Officers, oversee funding and consider student proposals.
  • Guild Policy Development Group meets 4 or 5 times each year. Decisions can take up to 6 months.
  • The new committees will be able to approve or reject student proposals in their area with 2/3rd majorities.
  • Committees will meet meet approximately every 4/6 weeks.
  • Committees will contain a mixture of Officers, and other student representatives alongside ‘open places’ which will be elected in Autumn Elections.
  • Guild Policy Development Group can discuss each idea and can automatically adopt or reject it if they agree unanimously. They make decisions on all Ideas - whether they are small operational changes through to big issues that affect all students on campus.
  • Larger issues or issues committees cannot agree on will be taken to ‘All Student Meetings’, at which all students can attend, speak and vote.
  • All Student Meetings can approve or reject things by a 2/3rd majority.
  • The detail of the format of this meeting will be finalised through a round of student consultation.
  • If Guild Policy Development Group cannot make a unanimous decision then an Idea goes online for a student vote, usually around two weeks after the Group meeting.
  • Major issues or issues that cannot be agreed on by All Student Meetings will be put to an All Student Vote.
  • All students will be given the opportunity to look at the arguments in favour of the proposals and have the final say.
  • Your Ideas cycles happen 4 or 5 times a year, and around 200 students must vote for an Idea or Policy for it to be adopted.
  • Fact Finding Commissions or Student Forums can be established to tackle issues that do not fit into committee categories that require additional student input.
  • The findings of these groups can be recommended to committees, all student meetings or staff as appropriate.
  • 18 students are elected to Guild Policy Development Group each year.
  • The Scrutiny Committee will continue to provide detailed Officer scrutiny and feedback on progress. This will include contributions from members of the committees.
  • Officers are held to account in Officer Question Time which happens 4 times a year.
  • Student ideas that are highly operational (Joe’s Bar needs more mayo) or illegal (‘The Guild should endorse a political party’ or ‘Force Fab entrants to do a shot on entry) will be filtered out by a ‘sorting procedure that the Student Voice Team manage with oversight from the elected Chair of the All Student Meeting.
  • Questions can be asked of officers at Officer Question Time.


I’ve got a strong opinion about the referendum - how do I get involved?

We will be holding a briefing session to provide more information about the referendum process and to form the official ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Abstain’ campaign teams:


Wednesday 12th February - 2pm

Campaign Briefing - Guild Council Chambers

These teams will have a budget of £100, will receive 10 metres of banner materials and be sanctioned by the Guild as the official recognised teams. The recognised team will also be able to submit a Referendum Case (a maximum of 500 words) to be displayed on the voting website.

If you are unable to attend the briefing but would like to be involved in the ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Abstain’ teams, please email

What is the timeline for the Referendum?

Here are the key dates over the next few weeks:


Monday 10th February

Referendum declared


Wednesday 12th February - 2pm

Campaign Briefing - Guild Council Chambers


Thursday 13th Feb - 2pm

Deadline for registering interest in joining a campaign team


Friday 14th February

Campaign Team Leaders confirmed


Wednesday 19th February - 4pm

Campaign Team Arguments submission deadline - via Guild website


Thursday 20th February

Referendum Arguments available to view - via Guild website


Monday 24th February - 10am to Friday 28th February - 4pm

Referendum voting


Saturday 29th February - from 7:30pm

Results Announced @ Elections Results Night - Deb Hall and via Guild of Students social accounts

When can I vote?


Monday 24th February - 10am to Friday 28th February - 4pm

Referendum voting via the Guild website

This is handily the same time as Guild Elections, so you can do all of your voting at once.

Who can vote?

Any full member of the Guild can vote on the Referendum question. If you’re a fully registered student at the University of Birmingham, you’re automatically a member of the Guild - unless you’ve chosen to opt out.

How many people have to vote?

Our byelaws, which set the rules for our governance, say that 5% of the student body or 2,000 students need to vote in a Referendum like this. This is called the quorum.

For this Referendum, the quorum is 2000 students.

Why are you doing this now?

The Education Act 1994 requires Students’ Unions to review their democratic processes every couple of years. Alongside this, successive Full Time Officer teams have highlighted this as something that should be prioritised.

We’re asking you to vote on the Referendum now because Guild Elections are the biggest democratic event of the Guild’s year, and it makes sense for you to choose both your new student leaders and make decisions about our democratic structures all at the same time. This also means that we’ll have enough time to put any new structures in place before the start of the new 2020/21 academic year.

Have you consulted students?

Every year on our annual survey, thousands of you have told us that decision making at the Guild doesn’t work for you. You said you were unsure about how decisions were made and who was consulted when these decisions happened. The number of students participating in Your Ideas each year was also dropping.

Last year, the Guild Officer team started to look at options for changing the way decisions were made, and at the start of this year, the Guild ran a series of focus groups with students from every year and level of study to find out in more depth what what was and wasn’t working for you.

This feedback was used to develop a draft model, which we then tested again with you - we spoke to students involved in Student Groups, Reps, MedSoc, Sports, Associations, Scrutiny Panel and Guild Policy Development Group about the proposals. They were also published online for every student to see. This feedback was then used to shape the final proposal that you are now voting on.

You can read the student feedback to date here.

What are you trying to achieve?

The proposals seek to open up our democratic decision making processes to make them more responsive and have a much greater level of student input. This Referendum hopes to establish whether the proposals have achieved that and whether students are happy to approve the new approach.

What is a Fact Finding Commission?

A Fact Finding Commission or Student Forum is a new way of investigating what students think about an issue when the topic is complex or deeply but not widely felt. Often this issues or questions cannot be solved with a simple yes / no decision.

Commissions will collect feedback from different students across campus and will bring together those with an interest in the issue to discuss and decide things. This will include doing research, presenting evidence and creating solutions together. The intention is to find consensus or a recommended way forward, rather than creating unhelpful disagreement. Membership of Commissions will vary but generally include a mixture of officers, student committee members and interested students alongside a member of Guild staff supporting with administration and research.

How is an All Student Vote different to a Referendum?

Referendums are a large scale exercise with formally recognised campaign teams that campaign and have an allocated budget. They take a lot of time and money, and are generally used to make big decisions about the way we are governed.

An All Student Vote is an online vote on a specific issue without the campaign infrastrastructure but the Guild will still heavily market voting.

Why do the committees and the All Student Meetings approve things by 2/3rd rather than just majorities?

The kinds of students that will want to be on these committees and attend All Student Meetings will most likely be the more ‘engaged’ and ‘Guildy’ students. While those students have a level of expertise and add value, the proposals seek to avoid them to be able to make decisions on behalf of the whole student body without there being a general consensus in favour or against something.

This 2/3rd system also allows us to naturally filter more difficult decisions up the chain to seek wider student input.

What will the Committees do?

Each committee will:

  • Discuss ideas and campaigns relevant to their specialist area
  • Support and direct the Guild Officers who are members of the committee
  • Provide different perspectives reflecting the wide diversity of Birmingham students and make recommendations to the Guild
  • Have responsibility for funding decisions
  • Be able to approve or reject decisions (by a two thirds majority)

Committees will also contain a mixture of officers, elected representatives from a specific ‘stakeholder group’ and ‘open places’ that will be elected by a campus wide election, usually in Autumn Term.

These committees will meet every 4-6 weeks or so with the ability to meet for specific issues as required. It is hoped that this will make decisions much more responsive.

How will you make sure students are engaged with ‘All Student Meetings’ and ‘All Student Votes’?

Should these new proposals be approved, a new approach to marketing democratic processes will be developed and implemented in time for September.

It is also intended that the nature of the issues that make it as far as ‘All Student Meetings’ and ‘All Student Votes’ will mean that there is a greater level of student interest in their content.

I have a complaint about a campaign team

Complaints about campaign teams are dealt with in line with our referendum campaign rules. Details of what those rules are and how to complain are here.

You didn’t answer my question! Where can I find out more?

If you’ve got a question about how the Referendum works or how you can get involved in a campaign team, please email or visit the Student Voice Office on the Ground Floor of the Guild.

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