UTS Union Ltd had a modest beginning in 1973, with a staff of four operating out of a small office on the lower ground floor of Building 4 of the New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT). Membership fees in the first year were $2.50 per semester. The entire student population was part-time and Union facilities were located in areas that made physical expansion difficult. Accordingly, in the early days, the Board's energy was directed towards developing a structure for the future and for implementing the first organised social and sporting programs for its members.
By the late 1970s, the Union had limited facilities at Broadway, the Anthony Hordern Building in George Street (Brickfield Hill) and at Gore Hill. Stationery shops at Broadway and George Street represented the Union's first venture into trading. The Union also provided lounge areas, a small gymnasium in Building 4, social and sporting programs and support for clubs and societies.
A major breakthrough occurred in 1980 when a Commonwealth Government grant of $2 million funded the construction of the Union Centre on Level 3 of the Tower Building at Broadway, thereby enabling the Union to expand its operations. The Centre provided a range of facilities not previously offered. The decision by the Union to employ its own staff in the new food services and bar, in addition to the other service and maintenance staff required to operate the Centre, resulted in the Union becoming a much larger organisation almost overnight and by the end of the year, the Union employed around 50 permanent staff.
From the outset, the new services flourished and, for the first time, the Union was able to achieve significant surpluses which were set aside in asset replacement and capital development reserves. Some of these reserves, together with bank borrowings, were used to fund the construction of the Broadway Sports Centre in Building 4. Completed in 1984, the Sports Centre contained squash courts, gymnasium, fitness and weights rooms, sports offices, a physiotherapy clinic and a hairdresser. Also in 1984, the Union purchased the local Broadway newsagency and acquired the after hours and weekend use of the Quay Street car park which offered discount parking for members. This arrangement continued successfully until 1997 when the owner declined to extend the lease. The Union subsequently operated the car park for another period until 2004.
In 1985, a Union Centre opened in the new Markets campus. At first it comprised only a cafeteria and bar but in 1992 the area was extended to include a Union Shop and a new bar- lounge area. In late 1999, the Markets Union Centre was fully renovated and a franchised food outlet was opened there in 2000 to complement the Union’s self-serve outlet. In 2011, the Union’s space at Markets was relocated and the Union Shop and Eatery were combined to form a new outlet, the Hub, providing both food and beverage services and retail products.
In the late 1980s, large operating surpluses enabled the Union to expand into some non-traditional areas. In 1987, the Union's Careers and Appointments Service (CAS) commenced and within a short time developed a reputation at least equal to that of much older careers services at other universities. In 1988, the Union purchased the 100-bed Kookaburra Lodge at Jindabyne. The following year, the Union purchased the Imperial, a 35-bed residence in City Road, Chippendale, to provide the University's first student accommodation and began a free legal service employing a full-time solicitor. This range of miscellaneous services gave UTS Union a reputation amongst other university unions aroundAustralia as an innovative and service-oriented organisation.
However, the Board did not regard the CAS or student housing as core services. Therefore, when the University expressed interest in taking over the running of the CAS, the Board agreed and the transfer took place in 1994. Similarly, when the University began to provide its own student housing, the Union decided not to compete or run in parallel and the Imperial was sold in 1997. The Union closed the legal service in 1994, because of the high costs involved, but continued to assist students in this area by providing a large financial grant to the UTS Community Law Centre until the end of 2005 when it was no longer able to fund the Centre following the introduction of voluntary student unionism.
When NSWIT gained University status in 1988 it was renamed the University of Technology, Sydney and the Union became UTS Union. The following year, the University merged with the Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education and in 1991 the Union acquired control of the facilities previously managed by the Kuring-gai CAE Students' Association. These included a large cafeteria in Building 1 and a bar, bistro and recreation area and offices in Building 5. In recognition of the particular needs of Kuring-gai members, the Constitution was amended to provide specific representation on the Board for Kuring-gai students and staff. The Union was able to offer a range of services not previously available at Kuring-gai and the amalgamation proceeded smoothly. In 1997 the Union facilities in Building 5 at Kuring-gai were closed and relocated into a new Union Centre in Building 1 at a cost of $1.5 million. The new area includes a cafeteria, bar and coffee shop, lounge, games area and staff room.
By 1992, the Union employed about 150 full-time and part-time staff and, on an annual basis, up to 500 casual staff, drawn largely from the student population. Annual turnover was around $9 million and the Union had developed into one of the largest in Australia. When the Broadway Union Centre was renovated in 1997, several of the food outlets were allocated to franchisees. As a result of this, and the Union's withdrawal from the CAS, student housing and other ventures, overall staff numbers were reduced to about 60 permanent full-time and part-time staff, although casuals continued to number about 500 per annum.
In the mid-1990s when the Union withdrew from the CAS, student housing and the legal service it began to re-focus on more traditional activities. The Broadway Union Centre was extended by the addition of the Glasshouse area in 1994 and was renovated at a cost of $1.5 million in 1997. In 1999, the Union purchased the College Shop, a large stationery store on the ground floor of the Peter Johnson Building, from UNSW Press. A number of capital works were completed in 2000, including the renovation of the Loft. In the same year, the relocation of the Students Services Unit from Level 3 of the Tower Building enabled an expansion of the Broadway Union Centre to provide much needed additional facilities for clubs and societies. In 2006, the Broadway newsagency and the College Shop were combined in a new outlet in Building 6, known as the DAB Store and Newsagency.
The Union has been disadvantaged since its inception by a lack of sporting infrastructure on its campus sites. A gymnasium, formerly operated by Sydney Technical College, was officially handed over to the Union at the beginning of 1974. The following year, a compulsory Sports Association fee of $5 per annum was introduced and income from this fee provided for a Sports Director and Secretary, administration and running costs, exercise and ski equipment, and subsidies for squash and tennis court hire and for sporting clubs. However, it was not until the completion of the Sports Centre in 1984 that the range of sporting activities could be expanded. Offsite sporting facilities have been provided through a number of sporting partnerships with other organisations, including the Northern Suburbs Athletics Club, Balmain Water Polo Club and Balmain Cricket Club, which combined with the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust to form Sydney Cricket Club in 2007. In more recent years, the Union has provided sports scholarships to high-performing athletes to support them during their time at University, many of whom have competed at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
One of the Union's most interesting sporting ventures was the acquisition of the Haberfield Rowing Club in 1992. Now known as the UTS Rowing Club, it has been developed into one of Australia's leading clubs and is recognised as a centre of rowing excellence in Australia. Twenty-five of its members were included in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic rowing teams, and the Club has produced five world champions and several under-23 champions. The Rowing Club was extended in 1996 and the upstairs licensed club, now known as the UTS Haberfield Club, was renovated and revitalised. More recently, planning approval has been granted to proceed with redevelopment of the total facility and the club will be closed throughout 2013 for the duration of the project.
Another sporting venture was an arrangement with Sydney Boys High School to build a new basketball stadium in the grounds of Sydney BoysHigh School in 1995. The school had the land but not the money; the Union had the money but not the land. Under a 99-year lease arrangement, the school uses the facility during school hours and the Union has control of it after school hours, at weekends and in school holidays for the use of clubs such as Basketball, Fencing, Volleyball, Kendo and Badminton.
The Union Sports Centre underwent major alterations in 2000 with the construction of a new mezzanine floor to allow for an expansion of operations. The Centre was subsequently rebuilt at a cost of $1.5 million as part of the renovation of Building 4 by the University. The work commenced in 2003 and was completed in 2006. The Fitness Centre is now one of the most modern indoor sporting facilities in Sydney housing a gymnasium, fitness and weights rooms and state-of-the-art exercise equipment. The Centre is used by over 2,500 members annually, as well as casual visitors and corporate members every week. Since 2011, the Union has managed the new Multi-Purpose Sports Hall, funded by the University as part of the Campus Master Plan. This is primarily a teaching and learning facility, but it also provides additional space for sporting and fitness activities outside scheduled teaching periods.
A function centre, the Gallery Function Centre, was opened in 1988 and served as a venue for meetings, conferences, dinners, staff and club events. The venue eventually became inadequate and in 2009 the Union entered into a joint project with the University to build a new facility on level 7, Building 10. Aerial Function Centre, designed by Tzannes Architects, was officially opened in August 2010. The
Centre is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and the latest audio-visual technology.
In 2002, the Board agreed in principle with the University that the Union should incorporate. After consideration of legal advice, the Board’s preferred model was for the Union to become a company limited by guarantee. Work on the incorporation proceeded throughout 2003 and UTS Union Ltd came into being on 1 January 2004. The University is the only shareholder and member of the company, although provision was made in the Constitution to permit students and staff to stand for election to the Board. Under changes to the Constitution introduced in December 2008, the Staff Directors are now appointed by the University Council from among the staff of the University. The President and Vice-President are elected annually by the Board from among the Student Directors, and the positions of Chair and Treasurer are appointed by the University. With the abolition of student and staff membership of the Union, membership fees were replaced with annual grants from the University, sourced from general service fees paid by all students. This arrangement continued until the end of 2006 when voluntary student unionism (VSU) legislation took effect.
The Union has had only four Chief Executive Officers in its 40-year history: Mr R J Eustace, Secretary-Manager from 1973-1976, Mr Michael Georgeson, Secretary-Manager from 1977-2004, Mr Tom O’Sullivan, who held the position of CEO from July 2004 until his untimely passing in November 2011, and Ms Elizabeth Brett, who was appointed CEO in March 2012. Mr Michael Georgeson, who held the position for 27 years before his retirement, oversaw a massive expansion of the Union’s services and facilities originally within NSWIT and then at UTS. Towards the end of his time as Secretary-Manager, Mr Georgeson coordinated the many detailed processes accompanying the incorporation of the Union. After his retirement, he was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the Union’s growth and success when he was presented with the Union Mug at the 2004 Annual Dinner.
Mr Tom O’Sullivan led the Union through its most challenging period following the introduction of VSU. University Unions had been under threat of VSU from the 1980s, but it was not until December 2005 that the Federal Government passed legislation prohibiting the compulsory collection of student fees by universities. The Union responded by launching the Advantage Program, with membership available to all UTS students, staff and alumni. Members of the program were able to access generous discounts both on and off-campus. Despite the new voluntary environment and the loss of fee income, Mr O’Sullivan ensured that the Union continued to offer a range of services to the University community, including catering and retail, as well as social, cultural, sporting and recreational programs. As a Board member and President of the Australasian Campus Union Managers Association, he worked tirelessly in conjunction with Australian University Sport to lobby Federal parliamentarians for the re-introduction of student fees so that all tertiary students across Australia could benefit from a wide range of services and extra-curricular activities. Legislation to introduce student services and amenities fees, to be collected by the University, was passed by the Federal Parliament in October 2011.
Today, UTS Union supports over 130 affiliated clubs and societies which receive annual grants from the Union. Major funding is also provided by the Union for scholarships, activities and events that are outside the scope of clubs and societies as well as supporting initiatives that engage a broader range of students at UTS. In the new fee environment, the Union is in a strong position to build on its past achievements and to fulfil its mission of enriching the University community.
- Commencement of NSWIT Union
- Opening of Broadway Union Centre
- Opening of Broadway Sports Centre
- Purchase of Newsagency
- Acquisition of Car Park
- Opening of Markets Union Centre
- Commencement of Careers Advisory Service
- NSWIT gains University status and becomes the University of Technology, Sydney; NSWIT Union becomes UTS Union
- Purchase of Kookaburra Lodge
- Purchase of the Imperial Hotel
- Amalgamation with Kuring-gai CAE Students’ Association
- Commencement of Legal Service
- Acquisition of Haberfield Rowing Club
- Extension of Markets Union Centre
- Glasshouse extension to Broadway Union Centre
- Relinquishment of Careers Advisory Service
- Closure of Union Legal Service
- Construction of UTS Sydney Boys High Stadium
- Renovation of Markets Union Centre
- Major Renovation of UTS Haberfield Club
- Relinquishment of Car Park
- Major Renovation of Broadway Union Centre
- Major Renovation of Kuring-gai Union Centre
- Sale of the Imperial Hotel
- Purchase of the College Shop
- Renovation of Markets Union Centre
- Renovation of the Loft
- Improvements to Union Sports Centre
- Extensions to Broadway Union Centre
- Sale of Kookaburra Lodge
- Incorporation of the Union
- Rebuilding of the Union Sports Centre
- Federal Government passes VSU legislation
- Completion of new Fitness Centre
- College Shop and Newsagency combine to form DAB Store and Newsagency
- Launch of Advantage Program
- First full year impact of VSU legislation leads to services contractions and staff losses
- National Impact Study of VSU legislation undertaken by Australian University Sport and Australasian Campus Union Managers’ Association
- Refurbishment of level 3, Building 1 Union Centre
- Discussions with new Federal Government regarding solutions to negative impacts of VSU
- Opening of Aerial UTS Function Centre on level 7, Building 10.
- New combined retail and catering outlet at Haymarket campus opens.
- Multi-Purpose Sports Hall opens
- Legislation to enable the collection of student services and amenities fees passed by the Federal Parliament
- Student services amenity fee introduced
- Advantage Program discontinued
- Development approval to proceed with refurbishment of UTS Haberfield Club