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How to protect your Students’ Union from inflation and price hikes

Rising inflation is increasing the cost of living for us all – not least, students. But while other businesses’ knee jerk reaction is to bump up the cost of their products and services, doing so for Students’ Unions would have a marked impact on the student experience overall. Bluntly put, it could negatively impact their quality of life, mental wellbeing and university engagement levels. So, before we dive into what you as Students’ Union can do to protect yourselves from inflation, let’s explore the levels of inflation we’re experiencing today in more detail.

What is the current inflation rate – and how much is it expected to rise?

The Bank of England is tasked to keep inflation at 2% a year. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has doubled gas prices since May 2022. COVID disrupted supply chains for many imported goods, which meant supply couldn’t meet consumer demand and prices increased. As of September 2022, inflation rates are at 9.9% and The Bank of England expects this to rise further to 13%, before returning back to base rate no sooner than in 2 years time.

A money pot with a plant growing out of it

How might inflation affect your Students’ Union?

Raise your prices and you risk negatively impacting your members’ lives. Keep prices the same, and you may not be able to pay the bills. You may also notice:

  • Students are more cautious and spend less – reducing the revenue your SU services bring in.
  • Students look to study as much at home as possible to save money – reducing dwell time on campus and potentially raising isolation.
  • You have less purchasing power – as goods become more expensive, fuel prices are soar and deliveries are delayed, the real value of your money is lower than it was before the inflation hike.
  • Student staff costs increase – as their living costs increase, you may notice prospective and current employees negotiating higher wages.


Beyond price hikes, how can you protect your Students’ Union against inflation?

With careful planning, you can lessen the impact inflation has on your charitable organisation. 


If you have to raise your prices, don’t do it all at once

Upping your prices by a set percentage across the board might alienate and aggravate your members. Instead, can you review promotions or eliminate products with tight margins from your shops and bars? Alternatively, why not introduce non-member pricing, so the general public and staff can purchase from you at a higher, more profitable price point?


Introduce new revenue streams

Did you know brands spend 500% more targeting youth than all other demographics? Yet currently, the average annual income per student across the top 50 Students’ Unions is just £4.82. Whether monetising your advertising space is high on the agenda or not, native can help you to guarantee and grow your ad revenue stream as well as boosting the experience for students and providing them valuable great offers. It’s a win-win-win, as students also get to enjoy interacting with the hottest brands on campus!

Implement efficiencies

This is about putting your detective hat on, and digging into how efficiently your Students’ Union services are currently operating. Ask yourself questions like ‘how could we do this differently?’ and ‘are certain services overstaffed?’ Reviewing your operating practices and identifying efficiencies can save you some serious cash, because time is money afterall.

Review your spend

This is definitely one to work with your finance team on, but now is a great time to review monies in vs monies out. Are there services or subscriptions you’ve signed up for that are laying dormant? Has marketing spend gone over budget (or perhaps not driven the results you’d expected)? Are you working with a number of smaller suppliers, when you could negotiate discounts if you were to move to a single larger supplier?

Keep an eye on the future

Inflation is temporary, but your Students’ Union is forever. Don’t lose sight of your long-term goals, and continue taking actions to get there, so that you’re evolving alongside your student members.

Now that your Students’ Union is in the strongest position possible to weather rising inflation, it’s time to look at how you can support students through the cost of living crisis – while you might be doing everything in your power not to increase the cost of your services, the same can’t be said for the other businesses that students spend with.