Parkville Station

Beleaguered MUSUL to lose corporate, commercial services

The University today released a statement suggesting that it intends to shut down the 13 year old corporate services provider, MU Student Union Limited (MUSUL), which currently provides corporate services (such as IT, HR, and finance) to the Student Union, and transfer those services to University Services.

According to the statement, it intends to undertake an “orderly transfer” of “all corporate services and commercial services that are presently provided by MUSUL” to its student organisations “from the subsidiary [MU] Student Union Limited (MUSUL) to University Services”.

For those of you not up on the lingo, the “corporate services” referred to are ‘back of house’ services, such as IT, human resources, and processing financial transactions. MUSUL is also responsible for some commercial services, such as the 130 Degrees catering business as well as graduation regalia hire, and the transfer would include those services.

MUSUL is a University-owned company that exists to provide corporate services to student organisations. It is organisationally and legally separate from the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) and the Graduate Student Association (GSA), which are the two primary clients for its services.

By contrast, University Services is a division of the University that is responsible for a huge array of the non-academic things that the University does. It provides (among other things) corporate services to the rest of the University in the same way that MUSUL does to UMSU and the GSA.

According to UMSU President Tyson Holloway-Clarke, the University will be entering into negotiations with UMSU about the best model for UMSU to be provided with corporate services. Holloway-Clarke said UMSU was “flexible and open to different models and approaches”, although emphasised the importance of UMSU maintaining “autonomy” over some areas, ensuring it had a separation and independence from the University.

MUSUL has been under fire, particularly from UMSU, following persistent allegations from UMSU of poor service provision, reluctance to listen to and act on concerns from UMSU, and a widely-publicised incident of accounting irregularities earlier in the year. It also relies on income received from tenants in Union House for a significant proportion of its revenue — revenue that will dry up if Union House is repurposed as part of the Student Precinct redevelopment.

It has historically existed to separate core functions around finance and legal compliance from the student-controlled UMSU. The dual-organisation structure was established in the wake of the collapse of MUSUi (Melbourne University Student Union Inc), a predecessor student union which was liquidated in 2004 amid allegations of poor financial management.

According to the University’s statement, “since MUSUL was established 13 years ago, the governance and management of our student associations has evolved and matured, as has the need for an independently managed building with student facing lifestyle and food needs.”

The decision was made by the University’s Finance Committee (a sub-committee of University Council) on the basis of a “management recommendation”. When asked for comment, MUSUL directed us to the University’s statement.

Parkville Station understands that the news was given to staff of MUSUL and UMSU today.

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