Leeds University Union

Coordinates: 53°47′46″N 1°33′50″W / 53.796°N 1.564°W / 53.796; -1.564

Leeds University Union
Institution University of Leeds
Location University Square, Leeds, LS2 9JZ
Established 1877 (as the Yorkshire College Students Association)[1]
Executive officers
  • Jack Palmer
  • Emma Healey
  • Taiwo Ogunyinka
  • Jessica Reed
  • Jamie Ali
  • Melissa Owusu
Members c. 32,000
Affiliations National Union of Students, British Universities Sports Association, Aldwych Group
Website http://www.luu.org.uk

Leeds University Union (LUU) is the representative body for the students at the University of Leeds, England. It is led by a group of six student sabbatical officers known as the Student Executive, supported by volunteer students acting as Reps and a large body of staff, both full-time and part-time. The organisation's aim is the advancement of education of Leeds students, by representing, supporting and advising students to improve their welfare and promote their interests and through the provision of social activities.


The current Union has its roots in the various societies of the Yorkshire College, a college which joined the federal Victoria University in 1887. The Yorkshire College Students Association was the first such society, founded in 1877. In 1890, a single consolidated body was formed to manage and fund the various societies. Rooms and areas within University buildings, which at the time consisted mainly of converted townhouses, were used as common rooms and meeting spaces until 1937 when work began on the current University Union building. Completed in 1939, it was made possible by a large financial donation from W Riley-Smith of Tadcaster. The building was extended in the 1960s as part of the Chamberlin, Powell and Bon development plan for the University campus,[2] and again in the late 1990s.

The representative function of the Union developed later, with no reference to the representation of the student body being included in the University's initial charter in 1904. From 1944, presidents and vice-presidents of the Union were made members of the University Council, to represent student opinion and inform students of the operations of the Council.[1]


The outside of the Leeds University Union building in 2014

The Union houses a variety of services, which work towards its aim of representing, supporting and advising students. These services are funded partly by a grant from the University and partly through income from the Union's commercial operations, which consist of a number of retail outlets, bars and nightclubs within the building.


The Union's Student Advice Centre provides specialist advice on housing, money and academic matters to students and can offer general advice and pointers in other areas. The Student Advice Centre also provides advocacy services for academic appeals and works with the University to maintain resources such as Help@Leeds.

Clubs and societies are supported by the Union's Student Activities team, which managed over 300 clubs and societies in 2014. Student Activities also manages the Union's Give It A Go programme and administers the allocation of grant funding to societies. Societies range in topic and include the likes of RAG and Nightline as well as student media groups such as Leeds Student, Leeds Student Radio and Leeds Student Television.

Joblink is an employment agency, which any registered student can access and use. The service lists both permanent jobs and temporary work deemed suitable for students, and also runs workshops aimed at improving employability. The Union's Volunteering and Community department lists volunteer roles which can also help improve students' employment prospects and community cohesion.


The Union operates four retail outlets within its building:

A number of other retail units are let to external companies, including:

Bars and venues

Blue plaque commemorating the recording of Live at Leeds by The Who

The building is home to two bars (The Old Bar and The Terrace) and Balcony (a coffee house) which are open during the day serving a variety of food and drinks. The bars are also open every night, and host regular events such as karaoke nights and pub quizzes. The Old Bar specialises in local and real ale, and is a Black Sheep Brewery Flagship bar and Cask Marque accredited.[6]

Three nightclubs are present on the site, the largest of which is Stylus which was opened in the early 2000s. Alongside this are two smaller clubs, Pyramid Bar (formerly Mine) and Function (formerly Pulse). During club nights, these venues are opened in various combinations depending on the expected audience - for instance, all three are opened for the weekly club night Fruity, while two are opened for The Wendy House. The clubs are also used as concert venues, with the University's adjoining Refectory used for larger events. These include The Who (who recorded Live at Leeds there originally in 1970, and returned in June 2006 to recreate the original show - the concert booklet for which listed the gig history of the venue[7]), Bob Marley and the Wailers (as heard on the remastered 2004 Deluxe edition of Burnin' ), Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and more recently Muse (recorded and played on MTV), The Strokes, Bloc Party, Manic Street Preachers, KT Tunstall, Arctic Monkeys, The Coral and Paul Weller.

Other spaces

The Riley Smith Theatre (formerly Riley Smith Hall), refurbished in 2005 and 2016, is the largest proscenium theatre on the University campus and is used by student societies for performances, as well as being the main venue of the Backstage Society who provide technical and stage management services; also the venue for Live_at_Leeds_(John_Martyn_album) recorded in 1975. The Raven is a theatre in the round located underground to the rear of the building, built in the 1960s and as a debating chamber. As of 2016, the space is currently closed for refurbishment with plans to use it as an in-the-round theatre..[8]


Leeds Student logo, the 2009 Guardian Student Newspaper of the Year

LUU has one of the country's most active university newspapers, The Gryphon (formerly Leeds Student until its renaming to its original name of "The Gryphon" in 2014). It is published weekly, on Fridays, during term time. Leeds Student was formed by the merger of the Leeds University Union newspaper (Union News) and the Leeds Metropolitan University Students Union newspaper, but in November 2005 the Leeds Met students voted to disaffiliate from Leeds Student citing under-representation as the reason.

The GIST has currently been relaunched as a mini magazine intended to keep members informed by highlighting and featuring events taking place in the union. Old paper based publications include The Document and the Lippy magazine, which was the Union's Women's Magazine run by students.

LUU has a student radio station, Leeds Student Radio. The station is widely active in LUU and often provides live DJs for union events, such as every Thursday in the Terrace and every Friday in Old Bar. Leeds Student Radio has a dedicated committee of around 20 members, and is one of the largest student stations in the country, boasting over 300 members.

There is also an internal TV station, LSTV, which broadcasts online and on televisions located around the Union building including in the Terrace and the Old Bar. LSTV broadcast live every Wednesday during term-time from their studio within the building itself. LSTV have been successful in winning awards through the student TV association NaSTA winning 9 awards in 2010 including best broadcaster.

Jack Straw

Jack Straw, former Foreign Secretary, was famously President of Leeds University Union in 1967-68. Whilst President, Straw played a role in taking over the leadership of a student sit-in (which he had initially opposed) in June 1968.[9] In 2000, a motion was passed at the LUU Annual General Meeting strongly criticising Straw, then Home Secretary, for his part in the Asylum and Immigration Bill, the attempted removal of trial by jury (for some defendants) and legal aid in many cases, the anti-terrorism bill, the curfew on teenagers, mandatory drug testing for criminal suspects, and his attitude towards cannabis and tuition fees. Simon Rothstein, who proposed the motion, noted that the organisations that have condemned Straw included the Bar Council. He also pointed out that Mrs Thatcher had said, "I trust Jack Straw. He is a very fair man." The motion revoked Jack Straw's life membership of the union, banned him from the union building and called on the university to withdraw Straw's honorary degree.[10]

In September 2007, the Communications and Internal Affairs Officer, Neil Mackenzie, put forward a motion to reinstate Jack Straw's name on the Presidents' Board in the Old Bar, but this fell at Union Council.[11] In November 2007, a motion was put to a referendum of the entire student body over whether to reinstate Jack Straw's membership of the union and have his name returned to the Presidents' Board. The motion passed by 1,175 votes to 423, meaning Jack Straw's life membership will soon be reinstated and his name returned to the board of former Presidents.[12][13]

Union upgrade

On 3 February 2015, Leeds University Union revealed a £20 million project to significantly update the Union building.[14] Following successful University approval construction is due to begin in early 2016. The project was developed after several rounds of student feedback and consultation with significant upgrades to the Riley, Raven, foyer and plant rooms along with brand new Arts Quarter, Marketplace and South Entrance planned.



  1. 1 2 Leeds University Union. "The history of Leeds University Union" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  2. Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (1963). University of Leeds development plan review, 1963: being a review of three years' progress on the development plan published in April, 1960, prepared by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, architects. Leeds: The University.
  3. "Essentials". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  4. Haddley, Antony. "Introducing the Salad Box". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  5. "CATS". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  6. "Old Bar". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  7. "The Who Concert Booklet" (PDF). Leeds University Union. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  8. "Meeting Room Description". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  9. "May 1968, Leeds". Reporter. Leeds University. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  10. "Jack gets the Boot". Socialist Worker. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  11. "Union Council Minutes of 24th September 2007" (PDF). Secretary. Leeds University Union. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  12. "Leeds University Union Referendum Mini Site". LUU. Leeds University Union. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  13. "BBC report on Jack Straw's reinstatement". BBC News. 7 December 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2007.
  14. "Union Upgrade". Leeds University Union. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
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