Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) spent over £17,000 on a digital rebranding scheme designed to improve its image among the student body, Cherwell can reveal.
OUSU paid a total of £17,490 for work carried out by London based digital marketing agency Spy Studio, following a year of research.
The new branding, revealed on social media earlier this week, comprised a shift from the name ‘OUSU’ to ‘Oxford SU’, along with a new logo and website – the latter of which is set to appear in September.
The union said it also received “a strategy for the next five years”, involving a change in the way the organisation interacts with students “at all levels”, and “training and guidelines” for staff.
— Oxford SU (@OxfordStudents) August 16, 2017
Little further detail has been made available at this stage, and ‘Oxford SU’ did not respond to a request by Cherwell to elaborate on what exact “training and guidelines” were to be introduced.
‘Oxford SU’ communications coordinator Megan Mary Thomas told Cherwell that the decision to rebrand was made by elected representatives and the trustee board as a response “to student feedback that the SU was not successfully representing its members interest.”
In 2016 ‘Oxford SU’ held a satisfaction rating of 34%, the lowest in the country.
According to Thomas, the money was spent as part of a strategic decision to reduce the union’s “unnecessarily” high levels of reserve funds, gained in part from the unexpectedly high commercial profits last year.
While the SU defended the move as one that would have a “positive impact on the Oxford experience of all students”, others at the university disagreed.
Hertford second year Jacob Hamilton said: “I have no idea how OUSU could possibly have spent so much money and received so little in return. I’m pretty sure I could have made a better logo in about ten minutes on Photoshop.”
On Twitter, students referred to the rebrand as a “vanity exercise”, and “absolutely obscene”.
— Arun Dawson (@ArunPDawson) August 17, 2017
Another student told Cherwell: “I understand the need to modernise and remain accessible, but is this really the wisest use of such a large sum of money?
“I can’t believe that an amount equivalent to two years worth of one student’s fees couldn’t have been better spent on, say, mental health care provision, or outreach work to underrepresented communities.”
Former President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats, Harry Samuels, mocked the decision:
£17,490 spent doing something that literally any student at the university could have done in five minutes on any decent graphics software.
— Harry Samuels (@hnjsamuels) August 18, 2017
Alongside the rebrand, ‘Oxford SU’ will also be moving to larger offices before the new academic year, from 2 Worcester St to 4 Worcester St. The decision to move was made by the University of Oxford’s Estates Services, who will bear the accompanying cost.