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Glasgow University Union (GUU) is one of the largest and oldest students' unions in the UK, serving students of the University of Glasgowmarker since 1885. Glasgow has various bodies that co-ordinate different aspects of student life at the university. The GUU organises social affairs for its members, provides value catering and entertainments and generally seeks to enhance the experience of its members during their time at the University of Glasgow and beyond. Students are eligible to become members for free at any point throughout their University career and alumni may become Life Members by applying to the Board of Management.


Students at the university instituted the idea of a union building in 1885 to help promote social intercourse on campus. The union's formation was driven by members of Glasgow University Dialectic Society, the Glasgow University Medico-Chirurgical Society and the Glasgow University Athletic Club. The same group formed a Students’ Representative Council in 1886 to raise funds for the building and procured the sum of £5000 from Dr John McIntyre of Odiham, Hampshire. In 1889 the Glasgow University Students' Representative Council obtained statutory recognition under the Act of 1889 and in 1890 they managed to raise sufficient funds to build the Union.

The Union was originally accommodated in the John McIntyre Building, which opened in 1890 and was designed by John James Burnet. These premises soon proved to be inadequete however, and a new building at the foot of University Avenue was designed by the architects Arthur & McNaughton and erected between 1929 and 1931, with the women of the Queen Margaret Union moving into the John McIntyre Building in 1932. It has been the location of the Glasgow University Students' Representative Council since the new QMU building opened in 1969. An extension to the Glasgow University Union building was designed by Keppie, Henderson & Partners and opened in 1965, which now houses the Union's nightclub, The Hive.

Two-Union Structure

The GUU is one of two unions at the University of Glasgow, the other being the Queen Margaret Union, however students are only permitted to join one of these.

The reason for this separation is that the GUU originally only permitted men to join, while the QMU only admitted women; in fact, the GUU was the last student union in the UK to have single-sex membership. In 1977 there was a referendum to mix the two unions, but this was defeated by a large majority. A mixing campaign got seriously under way in 1979, at one point the strictly all-male "Beer Bar" being occupied by a large mixed group of students. An extraordinary general meeting of the QMU voted overwhelmingly to admit men into membership, a move which subverted the whole structure of separate unions. Eventually, in 1980, a GUU special general meeting voted overwhelmingly to admit women into membership, under threat from the University Court of losing the lease on the extension to its building, with just 139 votes against.


The Union is managed by a Board in conjunction with an appointed Manager. The Board consists of nineteen student and seven former student members and is elected annually. The President, Honorary Secretary and Assistant Honorary Secretary form the Executive, and are the trustees of the Union, together with two Vice-Presidents and the Honorary Treasurer (who are elected life members). Convenors are Board-members tasked with specific roles, namely Debates, Games, Libraries and Entertainments. Present Student Members assist in the operation of various union activities. The current Executive consists of Dominic Boyle (President), Nicola Wilkinson (Honorary Secretary) and Rebecca Matthews (Assistant Honorary Secretary).


The objects of the Union shall be to maintain Reading, Writing and Dining Rooms, to promote social interaction among the members, to form a centre to which the various University Societies may be affiliated, and generally to fulfill the function of a Club for the members. The Union shall at all times remain an autonomous body with ultimate sovereignty vested in the members in General Meeting. - GUU Constitution.

The GUU is a social hub for the University, providing games rooms, bars, music and a nightclub. It is one of the largest licensed premises in Scotland with nine bars (and a tenth which is portable for use during functions). In addition, members can eat in the Servery, get essentials in the Union Shop and take advantage of two libraries provided for study.

The two libraries and the Reading Room are available for study twenty-four hours a day and for booking for social events. The Elliot Library is named after former inter-war Cabinet Minister Walter Elliot; the Bridie Library after Osborne Mavor, physician and dramatist who wrote under the name, "James Bridie"; and the Reading Room is dedicated to Donald Dewar, former President of the Union and First Minister of Scotland.

Daft Friday

The highlight of the Union's social calendar is a black tie ball at the end of the Martinmas-term exam diet, referred to as Daft Friday. The entire union building is decorated on a theme and devoted to the festivities. 2008 saw Chicane "headline" Daft Friday on Friday 19th December 2008.


The Convenor of Debates on the GUU Board is elected from the Union membership and heads the Union Debates Committee. They are responsible for the internal and intervarsity debating activities of the GUU. The current Convenor is Sheelagh MacGregor.

The Union holds the bi-annual John Smith Memorial Debate in memory of John Smith, former Leader of the Labour Party and former member of the Union. The most recent Debate was held in 2008, when guest speakers included Hazel Blears and Lembit Öpik, and which was chaired by Union alumnus and former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil.

Inter-Varsity Debating

The GUU is well known for the number of university debaters it has produced. It hosted the first World Universities Debating Championship in its current form in 1981 and again in 1990 and 2001. The Union won the Championship five times, in 1983, 1987, 1992, 1994 and 1997. In addition, the GUU has a distinguished history in the John Smith Memorial Mace, a competition between the winners of regional competitions in Irelandmarker, Englandmarker, Scotlandmarker and, latterly, Walesmarker. It currently holds the record for the most overall wins with a total of seventeen.

Parliamentary Debating

The Union is notable for its five annual Parliamentary Debates, held between five Clubs: the Scottish National Association, Her Majesty's Loyal Tory Club, the Whigs, the Independent Socialists and the World Almighty Distributist League. While some members join clubs to which they are politically aligned, others join clubs with the possibility of vacancies in desirable portions of the debate. A Bill of three clauses is argued over the course of about nine hours of debate, concluded by the "Prime Minister" who typically gives a speech of between thirty and sixty minutes to sum up the debate.

The current champions are the World Almighty Distributist League.

Dialectic Society

The Glasgow University Dialectic Society was the original debating society for students at the University, thought to have originated from some time around the University's foundation in 1451 but re-instituted in 1861. The Dialectic Society was one of the organisations which contributed to the establishment of the Union in 1885 and continues to be involved in the debating activities of the Union, whilst retaining an independent status. The GUU Convenor of Debates is an ex officio member of the Board of the Dialectic Society, and the fourth Parliamentary of the year is dedicated the Dialectic Parliamentary.


The Union offers an array of regular entertainments and competitions for members and non-members alike. Comedy nights run regularly in the Debates Chamber, while Open Mic runs on a Friday evening in the Deep 6 bar.The Union's nightclub, The Hive, is open on a Thursday (Thursday Night Hive), and Saturday (Hive Extra) until 2am.


The Games Convenor was originally charged with making sure that the Union's snooker tables were kept to a good standard, however his responsibilities snowballed from there. The Games Committee now runs numerous weekly events as well as the annual Month of Games. All events are free to enter.Weekly events include the Beer Bar Quiz (Mondays at 8pm), Snooker Competition (Wednesdays), Darts and Pool Competitions (Fridays) and Boys 'n' Girls, a battle of the sexes with large prizes on offer (late Fridays nights), and annual events comprise snooker and darts competitions, a dodgeball tournament, drinking and Iron Stomach competitions and B.A.D.G.E. (Big All Day Games Event).

Notable members

The Union counts many distinguished figures amongst its former members, including:


The archives relating to the Glasgow University Union are maintained by the Archives of the University of Glasgow .

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