The Governance Code

The SU Governance Code has 7 principles which are highlighted in the picture below. Click on the principles to learn more about them.


Students' Union Governance Code - English 
Students' Union Governance Code - Cymraeg/Welsh


What is the SU Governance Code?

A new Charity Governance Code has been developed for the charity sector, created to help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance. The original code was developed by a steering group, with the help of over 200 charities, individuals and related organisations. 


NUS has worked with unions to adapt this code and underpin it with a relevant governance improvement offer for students’ unions. The Driving Excellence in SU Governance Task and Finish Group was created, and comprised of union staff, officers, lay trustees, sector colleagues and NUS staff. The group created an adapted version of the Charity Governance Code, then applied some tests around flexibility for a variety of SU contexts, how accessible the code was and how it would fit alongside other supporting resources and frameworks.


The group then hosted regional events and launched a survey to understand union specific governance challenges to ensure the adapted Code was a relevant and useful tool.

The key changes were:

  • Weaving democratic principles throughout the code
  • Changing terminology so language was much more familiar to a union audience, e.g. “charity” to “union” and “beneficiaries” to “members”
  • Framing the code so unions can demonstrate desirable practice and outcomes

The NUS Governance Code has also received an endorsement from the Charity Sector Code Steering Group.

What is the SU Governance Wheel?

The Governance Wheel is a simple tool that helps board of students’ unions quickly get a sense of how well they’re functioning and fulfilling their roles. Completing it will give you an instant visual impression of the shape that your board is in.


The SU Governance Wheel - English 
The SU Governance Wheel - Cymraeg/Welsh

The SU Governance Wheel Visual Representation


The Governance Wheel links to the Students’ Union Governance Code (the SU Governance Code) and can be used as a starting point for reviews based on the Code.


It has been adapted from NCVO’s Governance Wheel, which is available exclusively to NCVO members at and be used to assess against the wider Charity Sector Governance Code. Students’ unions in England are members of NCVO and can accesses for free as part of your membership of NUS.


Governance Peer Review Scheme

Utilising the SU Governance Code, a trained Peer Reviewer can facilitate discussion around where you can develop your governance, and support your board to come up with a realistic, achievable action plan based on best practice.

After the workshop, you will receive a report of your findings, the discussion, and the agreed action plan to keep. This can serve as a fantastic tool for further development, as well as a ‘visual snapshot’ that can easily be repeated, meaning that progress is easily measured and monitored.

As our Peer Reviewers are volunteers taking their time to support the wider movement, only expenses need to be covered. For more information and to express an interest in having a Governance Peer Review please email union development.


Charity Sector Code Steering Group


The Code has received the following endorsement from the Charity Sector Code Steering Group Chair, Rosie Chapman. “The Charity Governance Code is designed to provide a set of aspirational standards for good governance in charities and not-for-profit organisations. As the code steering group, we recognise that the Code’s recommended practice will apply differently to different contexts. We, therefore, welcome NUS’ work to adapt the Code to reflect Students’ Unions particular circumstances, and their work to encourage the Code’s use across the student movement.

Student Unions benefit from committed trustees from a variety of backgrounds. They and their trustees play a vital role in enabling, encouraging, and promoting effective student representation to improve the quality and experience of education across the UK. Our hope is that this Code will support these trustees as they carry out their work, and support the continued development of good governance across all Students’ Unions.”





Committee of University Chairs

John Rushforth, Executive Secretary of CUC said

“Student Unions are an important part of the HE sector – it is in everyone’s interest that they are well governed and this Code makes a valuable contribution to ensuring that that is the case”

Association of Heads of University Administration 

‘Supported by the AHUA’.



Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness 

'This Code will give boards of Student Unions both challenge and inspiration: an unmissable read!'