The University of Canterbury and the UCSA (University of Canterbury Students’ Association) like to advertise that they have the most clubs of any university in New Zealand. It touts the fact that there are over 100 clubs on campus as a sign that its student culture is thriving and that there are many activities for students to engage in.
According to the UCSA Clubs Guide 2015,
UC is famous for its student club culture. We currently have over 130 clubs, with many thousands of members! Those sort of number don’t lie.
But it is not clear how statistically significant the number of clubs and members in each club really is. Nor is it clear that larger clubs are necessarily providing a better experience than smaller clubs or should have an advantage regarding grant applications.
During the recent Clubs Days on campus, many first-year students, as well as returning students and a few staff members, milled through the campus lawns and stopped at the various club booths. Music blared from competing sound systems, the smells of BBQ wafted through the air, and rain and sunshine beat down on club stalls without cover. Some clubs offered free membership with incentives like free food or other giveaways. With virtually no obligation beyond writing a name, student number, and email address, it is easy to see how a club might have a huge member list but few members who actually participate in any way beyond signing up on Clubs Day. Students may want to put club membership on their CV (the Student Volunteer Army might look good), or may end up having to choose between several clubs with clashing schedules. If students sign up for membership in multiple clubs but never attend a meeting or event, they cannot really be said to have contributed to a vibrant student culture. The increasing number of clubs might actually become detrimental if it means clubs are competing with one another for attention, funding, and attendance.
On Clubs Day, the difference between the well-funded clubs and smaller clubs was quite noticeable. Some clubs had a large footprint, with multiple tents, BBQs, EFTPOS machines, and merchandise from sponsors. With money come more opportunities for branding, food and drinks, advertising, and big events. Furthermore, these clubs might be at an advantage when applying for UCSA grant money due to questions like “What are the other sources of funding being used?” and “How many UC students are attending the event?” [Clubs can apply for grants after a year of existence. Near the end of the grant period in 2014, the UCSA had given out $46,094.61 in grants to fewer than 35 clubs.] The application also contains two seemingly innocuous questions: “Does the club help the UCSA in other avenues?” and “How does the club contribute to the student experience at UC?” If a club is not helping the UCSA (whatever that means) or is critical of it, that could potentially indicate a conflict that results in the club not receiving approval for a grant.
UCSA. 2013 November. “Grants Policy.”
UCSA. 2014 September 24. Canta. Issue 21 (pgs. 12-13).
UCSA. 2015. “Clubs Guide 2015.”
University of Canterbury. 2016. “Students’ associations and clubs.”