Strategic plan 2019 - 2022



This strategic plan 2019-22 sets out our mission, vision, values and priorities over the next 3-years. Whilst we are, and will continue to be, a student-led organisation, it is important that we have a long-term plan that gives us clear direction in terms of the kind of organisation we want to be in the future.

This plan is informed by robust student research, carried out in April 2019 by Redbrick Research. This research engaged over 1800 University of Glasgow students. It included members and non-members and students with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. We asked questions around your interests, expectations and perceptions. This was to help us better understand our current position, as well as what you would like to see from us in the future. 



The Queen Margaret Union (QMU) has a long and proud heritage as part of the University of Glasgow community. We were founded in 1890, originally as Queen Margaret College. Our initial goal was to give women the opportunity to gain an education – something that was then missing from the academic community. QMU later merged with the University of Glasgow and became the Queen Margaret Union. We have been in our current building for 50-years and have a long history of offering activities and events for members and a reputation for being an inclusive, progressive and welcoming organisation. Hundreds of thousands of students and members of the public have attended live music events in QMU, ranging from Queen and Nirvana to George Ezra more recently. We’ve recently played host to the Celtic Connections Festival and award-winning Brit stars of 2019: Tom Walker and Sam Fender. We were the host venue for BBC Alba's ALT where top Scottish Acts were recorded live and shown on TV.


Recent years have been difficult however. Our commercial services have been in steady decline as they have at many other students’ unions around the UK. During this decline, we have struggled to maintain our cutting edge and relevance for students. We have failed to invest in our spaces and we have not met the challenges that we face head on.


The presence of four student bodies is unique within UK Higher Education, and we have grappled with understanding our place and recently have been unable to offer something distinct within this set up. Based on our research only 46% of Glasgow students hold a positive perception of QMU. This is (marginally) the lowest of all the student bodies. Our net promoter score is -13 (below average) and is even lower than this amongst students that are also members of other student bodies. 

Our financial position is also extremely precarious. Poor commercial performance has led to financial losses for the last five consecutive years and we have almost entirely eroded all of our reserves. Our most significant financial loss was in 2017-18, when we recorded a £178k deficit. This prompted an external diagnostic into the organisation’s health and what we needed to do to reverse our fortunes in the future.


Since November 2018, we have been working towards a challenging Change Plan in order to turnaround and stabilise the organisation. This process has included significant changes to our governance and staffing structure. The changes we have made will help to give us a solid foundation to build on in the future. However, the need for change has not passed and much more work needs to be done to secure the future of QMU. The focus of this strategic plan is all about stability and relevance.


By 2022 we will reach a position where we are a well-run and efficient organisation. We will be relevant to Glasgow students and will be able to clearly explain the value that we add to student life and the University community. 



Over 1800 students contributed to the research that underpins this plan. Here are some of the key things they said:

  • 37% of students would like to be involved with more outside of their studies.

  • 39% of students don’t get involved with more because they’re shy or lack the confidence.

  • 42% of students would be interested in getting more involved with international / cultural events.

  • 62% of students have struggled with at least one mental health issue.

  • 50% of students have not got the help they needed at University.

  • 31% of students have no idea what they’re going to do after graduation.

  • 48% of students would be interested in getting more involved with careers guidance / mentoring or employability skills / masterclasses.

  • 77% of students are satisfied with their University experience – those that are members of QMU are more likely to be satisfied.

  • 26% of students have seriously considered dropping out of University – this is lower for students engaged in extra-curricular activities.

  • 46% of students have a positive perception about QMU. 43% are neutral suggesting a high level of indifference and ambivalence.

  • QMU membership is more likely to appeal to postgraduates, international students, LGBT+ and non-binary gender students.

  • 38% of students are net promoter score (NPS) detractors – meaning they scored 6/10 or less when asked how likely they would be to recommend QMU to a friend.

  • Only 13% of students regularly use one of QMU’s services. 6 in 10 students rarely or never use our services.


“It has not done much to compete with GUU in terms of events offered. Especially unhappy with food provided in food factory and overall staff friendliness in the building.” –QMU member


“The Union is not very nice inside. Bar is sweaty and badly furnished.” –non-QMU member 

“If someone was to ask me why they should become a member, or why it may be better than other unions I would struggle a bit to come up with an answer.” –QMU member


“I would recommend signing up because you get a few benefits but I wouldn’t really be able to sell it very well.” –QMU member


“Don't try to be like GUU - your unique ideas sell better.” –QMU member


“Create incentives for people to join, or come to the building, because I’m sure it has great potential, just people aren’t sure why they should be interested.” – non-QMU member


“I think QMU should recognise and sell its strengths including fantastic space and history, and it should market itself more, particularly if undertaking new ventures .” – non-QMU member


“I do worry that by not attending as much extra-curricular stuff I am not getting the full experience”


“The Ideal Student Body would be welcoming to everyone, and make sure groups that often feel left out never feel like that again. They deal with issues from helping students with mental health to earning money etc. It would also be a place to go to for fun during the day and at night”


“The Ideal Student Body would provide a range of activities/events for everyone and crucially have a good welcoming atmosphere”


“Prepared and not prepared, I think I have professional skills but some everyday things like finances/sorting out things like council tax confuse me - I wouldn't know where to start” 


Our mission is:

To enrich the lives of students at the University of Glasgow. 

Everything that we do will contribute to this. By 2022:

  • 66% of students will have a positive perception of QMU (46% now)

  • We will have a Net Promoter Score of +10 (-13 now)

  • 55% of students will regularly or occasionally access our services or opportunities (38% now)

  • At least 500 students per year will be actively engaged with our volunteering, employment and enterprise opportunities including publications, events, tech, charity fundraising etc (c.150 now)

  • A further 2000 unique students involved in one-off opportunities and activities such as cultural trips, events, training sessions and mentoring. 


We are inclusive, progressive and impactful.

A vital part of the University community. 


We will focus our work in five key areas to deliver on our mission and vision. These areas build on QMU’s strengths and are the areas that we think will help us to contribute the most to student life.



Helping you develop your skills and experience –enhancing your skills and experience through meaningful volunteering, employment and enterprise opportunities and backing these up with high quality training and skills development that help develop you as a person and prepare you for life after University.


These opportunities will be linked with our different areas of work and will include areas such as events management, business management, hospitality, tech, communication, music, journalism, fundraising etc.


What does success look like by 2022:

  • 75% of students involved in a leadership roles in QMU agree that it has enhanced their future career prospects.

  • 500 students per year with our volunteering, employment and enterprise opportunities including freshers, publications, events, tech, charity fundraising.

  • 500 students receive training and development from QMU.

  • 50 active mentoring relationships per year between QMU alumni and volunteers / students.

  • A reduction to 40% of students have no idea, or are unsure, what they’re going to do after they complete their studies (50% now).

  • At least 3 student mini-enterprises set up in QMU across 3-years.

  • An active partnership with the University careers department.


Potential projects or programmes of work:


  • Defined role profiles, training and marketing plans for all existing volunteering opportunities (publications, fundraising, events, tech team).

  • Establish 10 new industry partnerships to create specific links between external organisations and our volunteering roles – this may include industry career talks, involvement in training etc.


  • Initiate a new mentoring programme, with support from the University careers department, pairing up industry based QMU alumni with current volunteers / students.

  • Staff to receive training in volunteer and student staff management.

  • Launch a skills development training programme, with sessions delivered by student facilitators in a range of soft skill areas.


A hub for culture and music – adding to the cultural capital of the University and building a connection between Glasgow students and the cultural offering of the University, Glasgow City and Scotland.

What does success look like by 2022:

  • 50 live music and cultural events taking place in QMU per year with over 5000 student attendees.

  • 70% of students agree there is a strong sense of community at the University of Glasgow (63% now).

  • Only 30% of students would like to be involved in more things outside their studies at University but say there are things stopping them (37% now).

  • 55% of students will regularly or occasionally access our services or opportunities.

Potential projects or programmes of work:


  • Develop and implement an events and entertainments programme that is appealing and inclusive – driving 10% year-on-year increase in footfall, revenue and surplus.

  • Introduce a new Give it a Go programme providing opportunities for students to try new activities, meet people and visit places of rich cultural heritage.

  • Explore opportunities to reserve places at external events and seek discounted rates for Glasgow students – for example at QMU gigs.

  • Organise a Celtic Connections ‘mini-fringe’ like QMU Live to provide opportunities for students to engage in different ways with the event.



  • 10 new collaborations with cultural partners i.e. museums, galleries, music venues etc to promote opportunities for learning and cultural engagement.

  • Create a business case for investment in Qudos to seek to maintain as live music venue of choice even after rebuilding of an alternative the ABC Academy.

  • Work with student societies and cultural groups to help plan and deliver at least 10 cultural / religious festivals or celebration events in QMU.

  • Work with careers service to make QMU the hub for music and culture alumni and careers events.


Supporting your wellbeing – working in partnership with the University, other student bodies and external partners to make sure you are supported in the ways that you need and deserve. We will use our core strengths and other areas of work (such as MHF Live) to enhance and advance the mental health agenda across campus.


What does success look like by 2022:

  • A reduction to 35% of students have not got the help they needed at University (now 50%). 

  • A reduction to 20% of students have seriously considered dropping out of University (now 26%).

  • 500 students and staff trained in Mental Health First Aid over 3-years.


Potential projects or programmes of work: 


  • Continue, and further develop, our partnership with MHF Live. This is the Mental Health Foundation's music fundraising initiative that aims to raise awareness, raise money and raise the roof for mental health. We feel that MHF Live is a perfect fit for QMU as the connections between mental health and music are abundant.

  • Introduce Mental Health First Aid training for all staff, student leaders and volunteers.

  • Incorporate a wellbeing stream into Give it a Go programme i.e. yoga, mediatation, therapy dogs.

  • Work with the other student bodies and University to agree a coherent and focused wellbeing strategy that sets out clearly the role that each student body can play in improving student mental health and wellbeing.

  • Provide staff with mental health support so they feel able to do their role to the best of their ability.



  • Ensure we have clear processes and are well connected with the right University systems so that we can play an active role in identifying and supporting students of concern / at risk.

  • Develop and launch a Mental Health Champions scheme with 50 students recruited to volunteer ambassador roles – aimed at supporting their peers and signposting to key University systems.

  • Establish a clear evidence-base that reinforces the link between QMU extracurricular activities and positive student mental health.


Helping you to shape an inclusive University experience – celebrating diversity and providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds to connect, share experiences and shape the world around them.

What does success look like by 2022:

  • Effective representation of minority / underrepresented students in all leadership roles within QMU.

  • 90% of staff and volunteers agree that QMU values equality, diversity and inclusion.

  • 50% of students believe that QMU is the most welcoming and inclusive student body.

  • 50:50 gender parity pledge as part of the Keychange initiative.


Potential projects or programmes of work:


  • Work with all liberation groups / networks across the University and map out partnership agreements that outline how QMU can support their activity and how they can help to build engagement across QMU within their communities.

  • Continue involvement with, and play a more prominent role in supporting, Black History Month across campus.

  • Make the Keychange pledge to promote and enabled gender parity at QMU.



  • Work with students / student groups to help them run at least 5 campaigns or events promoting liberation, rights and engagement of minority / underrepresented students.

  • Put in place measures to track and ensure all of our leadership positions have effective representation amongst minority students in all areas.


Building a sustainable and well-run organisation – putting in place the leadership, governance, performance management and structures to ensure QMU can have an optimistic and positive future.

What does success look like by 2022:

  • Focused finance, HR and communications plans developed and delivered.

  • Delivered at least break-even performance every year in the 3-year period.

  • Reserves rebuilt to level of 3-month operating costs.

  • 75% staff engagement score within annual staff survey.

  • Number of students with neutral perception of QMU reduced to below 30% (indicating less ambivalence and improved communication).

  • All staff have objectives, targets and personal development plans.


Potential projects or programmes of work:


  • 3-year finance, HR and communication detailed plans developed and agreed to underpin this strategy. ‣ Basic performance management framework introduced and embedded.

  • Marketing, brand and operation plans in place for all commercial outlets – helping to achieve profitability in all commercial services.

  • Suitable external management accountant engaged to provide effective financial support and management for QMU.

  • Detailed review and overhaul of financial processes and procedures to ensure effective, efficient and secure.

  • New Articles and Bye Laws agreed through QMU and University governance processes.

  • All staff away days, trustee away days, senior leadership residentials introduced annually.



  • Rebrand of QMU to reinforce key areas of focus and values.

  • Relaunch QMU membership system and website to build effective communication channels with students. 

  • Basic management development programme implemented for all managers / leaders.

  • Review all HR policies and procedures to ensure compliance and good practice.

  • Targeted investment in high-priority spaces based on appropriate business plans presented to, and agreed with, University. 


We’ve outlined what we plan to do, but the way in which we do it will be just as important. Our values set out the way we plan to operate and the behaviours that we’ll champion. 


Everything we do will have students at the heart of it. This will mean that we: 

  • Understand without doubt that we exist to make life better for students, and proactively respond to your changing needs.

  • Act on feedback to improve the way we work, consistently championing a you said, we did approach across the entire organisation.

  • Champion student leadership and understand that we are run by students for students. 


The student experience is always changing at University. We should not be static, but regularly working to be relevant for our members. This will mean that we: 

  • Constantly work to understand the key issues affecting students at University of Glasgow. 

  • Take action to fix these issues in new and exciting ways. 



We are honest, transparent and open in everything that we say and do. This will mean that we: 

  • Regularly communicate what we’re doing, answering difficult questions honestly and proactively engaging on challenging issues.

  • Show respect for each other and different perspectives, particularly when we disagree. 



We offer a broad range of activities, opportunities and services that are accessible and appeal to the broadest possible range of our membership. This will mean that we: 

  • Take active steps to ensure more students from currently under-represented groups can participate in our leadership roles and activities. 

  • Use data to understand, and be honest about, who does and doesn’t get involved in QMU. 

  • Promote initiatives and dedicate resources to create a more diverse organisation that takes account of the broad range of students’ needs. 



We challenge the status quo and are not afraid to do things differently, creatively and take measured risks. This will mean that we: 

  • Constantly look at our own activities, and ask ourselves the question can we do it differently and better at every opportunity. 

  • Understand that short-term failure is often an essential component of long-term success. 

  • Make creative choices that are seen by the students on campus and show them how we’re are making an impact.