through the decades.
Over the years, thousands of students have been part of the Union. The Union will forever be changing, but it remains true to its original purpose: to place students at the heart of Strathclyde through representation, sport, clubs, societies, support, socialising and anything that is a priority for student life during their time at Strathclyde.
Scroll through the decades or pick a date and discover our history.
When war broke out in 1939, the barely completed extension at John Street was put on hold. This building was intended to become the Union, but by the 1950s, it was clear that the proposed building was no longer fit for purpose. The Students’ Representative council mounted a successful campaign for a new Students’ Union building, that could provide the space for a greatly enlarged student body.
On 18th May, 1959, Lord Cameron opened the Royal College of Science and Technology Students’ Association Students’ Union. Forever to be known as ‘The Union’. The President of the Students’ Association marked it as “the beginning”, thanking Sir Andrew McCance and Sir David Anderson for the time and attention they gave to the planning. For all involved, this marked the beginning of an aspirational journey to embed students at the heart of the University community.
The Royal College of Science and Technology (1956-64) and Scottish College of Commerce (1955-64) merged, to become University of Strathclyde Glasgow (Jordanhill College of Education would later merge in 1993). Subsequently, the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association was established with a purpose to build student-life outside of the classroom. The vision was for the Union to become the medium for extra curricular activities “in which the student can learn and practice the arts of meeting and working with his fellows. There he can eat, read, argue, play in their company and so prepare himself to take his place in the community”. To this end, the building was to accommodate: meals, study, recreation, formal consultancy and a bar. Membership fees were set at £1.
After another successful student campaign, The Union was extended across 10 levels and quickly became the ideal music venue. An already iconic decade of music saw some of the world’s most popular bands play to hundreds of overjoyed Strathclyde students, and music became an intrinsic part of the student experience.
Supported by Talking Heads, in 1977 The Ramones nearly didn’t get to play after the Lord Provost of Glasgow was quoted in the Evening Times saying:
“Glasgow has enough yobs of its own… We don’t need to import them.”
Regardless, the band played to an ecstatic crowd.
Bands who played in the 70s: Mott the Hoople (1971) | Pink Floyd (1971) | Elton John (1971) | Fleetwood Mac (1972) | Thin Lizzy (1973) | The Kinks (1974) | Electric Light Orchestra (1975) | Motörhead | The Stranglers (1976) | Can (1977) | Ramones (1977) | Talking Heads (1977) | Blondie (1978) | The Police (1978) | The Jam (1979)
Nelson Mandela was awarded an honorary degree from University of Strathclyde and an honorary life membership of the Students’ Union whilst in prison in South Africa. Mandela’s daughter, Princess Zenani Mandela Dlamini, collected the degree and life membership on his behalf and unveiled a plaque in the Union.
To mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month in 2017, Vice President Diversity, Taylor Wong, commissioned local artists Conzo & Glöbel to paint a mural of Nelson Mandela in the Mandela Room on Level 10.
Bruce M. Wilson, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, University of Central Florida and USSA President 1985 said
“At the time Mandela was given freedom of the city, my colleagues and I felt that it was really important to stand alongside the city and show our support. I still remember the emotional and heartfelt speech my VP, Tom Connor, gave at the University Court on the importance of awarding him the Honorary Degree and electing him as honorary member of the Association.
“It was the perfect sign off to the end of my term in 1985. The mural has brought back so many great memories of being in office. I absolutely love the work, and it’s great to see that the Union are still showing their support for such an influential figure.”
In 1989 the Union expanded its community further when the Sports Union became an official part of the Students Union.
Both Unions have separate facilities and identities still, with Strath Sports Union recently relocating to the newly opened Strathclyde Sport building.
Fast forward 30 years and more than 3,000 students are now involved in student sports clubs and programmes.
The top bands of the time continued to play for the student audiences. Pete Wishart MP, keyboardist in Runrig (1986-2001), said:
“The gig at Strathclyde Students’ Union in December ’87 was a blast.”
“It wasn’t that long after the release of our breakthrough album ‘The Cutter and the Clan’. It was probably one of the last gigs we ever played without a full crew- especially difficult given the gig was on level 8.”
Bands who played in the 80s: Iron Maiden (1980) | U2 (1981) | Altered Images (1981) | The Cramps (1981) | Big Country (1982) | The Waterboys (1984) | Sisters of Mercy (1984) | Deacon Blue (1987) | Runrig (1987) | Sonic Youth (1989) | James (1989)
The outrageous ‘TFI Fridays’ is launched as a party night in the Union every Friday, run by legendary DJ Phil. Speaking of its success, Phil Reavey says:
“TFI was more than a bar event, it was a social gathering of like-minded people. You studied hard all week but once it got to Friday it was time to let go and have fun. The music, the vibe, the friendships you made by seeing the same people week in week out. It ran for 25 years and many people met their future partners between 4pm and 9pm each week.”
A former student recalls:
“I can remember at doors closing time everyone heading down the stairs from Level 8, which was the ‘nightclub’, having chats down the stairwell with your friends who could be a couple of floors down. The noise and the energy was amazing as people shouted down the stairwell to others – good times!”
Strathclyde Alumna and member of The Delgados, Emma Pollock, says:
“Venues like this are hugely important because they’re stepping stones.”
“Whether it’s music, theatre, comedy, it can all find a place here. It gives a chance for artists to play in front of a crowd who then tell their pals how great it was. And by the time they come back to Glasgow, they might’ve been bumped up to a bigger venue.”
The Union has become famous for its festivities over the years – the “Christmas All Nighter” being a highlight of many students’ time here. It’s no wonder why though – with world-renowned acts such as Calvin Harris, Girls Aloud, Shed Seven, Electric Six, Rachel Stevens, Toploader and The Bluetones all playing over the years in Level 8’s Vertigo. Running from 8pm until 8am the following morning, it was always a true test to see who could last the whole night!
Bands who played in the 00s:
Idlewild (2002) | Girls Aloud (2004) | The Fratellis (2006) | The View (2006) | Amy Macdonald (2007) | Calvin Harris (2007)| Frank Turner (2008) | Funeral For A Friend (2009) | Frightened Rabbit (2010)
Whether it’s at a University or National level; Strath Union are always committed to spreading equality and diversity, to ensure that no student is disadvantaged. Over the years, our liberation and representation groups have organised cultural celebrations, panel discussions and campaigns that have been fundamental in promoting an inclusive and diverse culture – further enhancing the student experience.
- Black History Month: Highlighting awareness and knowledge of Black history and the contributions made.
- Fight For The Night: Working in partnership with NUS Scotland in demanding justice for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
- LGBT+ History Month: Celebrating LGBT+ lives and the history of gay rights and related civil rights movements.
Although it has long been called ‘the Union’, this was not its official name. In 2017, University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA) worked with local design agency, D8, to rebrand as University of Strathclyde Students’ Union (Strath Union or the Union for short).
On the back of a gender review carried out in 2017 by the Vice President Diversity, Simran Kaur, Strath Union ran an award winning ‘ This Strath Girl Can’ campaign to increase participation in the Elections from female students. Our participation increased from one female officer running in elections, to 18 the following year and a 50/50 gender split on the Student Executive for the first time in several years.
The Union is preparing to move into the heart of campus and the Student Executive Officers secured additional space to ensure all student services have room to flourish in the new Union building. Nestled in the heart of campus, the building is currently under construction and the original open date was January 2021. However, due to Covid-19, there is a slight delay and the new opening date will be September 2021 (assuming there are no further disruptions to building works).