Students Nova Scotia


Press Releases & Updates

Review calls for significant changes to student union governance

For Immediate Release

Halifax, NS – An independent review released today has recommended significant changes to governance structures within Nova Scotia student unions. The report finds that student union structures have not evolved as the associations have grown in size and complexity, which undermines both student ownership and effective service delivery. The report includes 56 individual recommendations addressing issues ranging from governance structures to university relations and election rules.

“This is a very thought-provoking report and we thank the author, the Advisory Committee and the research participants,” said Brandon Hamilton, President of Students Nova Scotia. “All the student unions involved are committed to giving it careful reading as we strive to best represent and serve our members.”

Notable report recommendations include:

  • Transition from workgroup boards to governing boards, which implies the abolition of current executive roles

  • Amend policies so that the President is elected by the board from among its members

  • Clarify the role of the General Manager as the Chief Executive Officer

  • Institute single-transferable votes to elect the board

  • Eliminate constituency-specific representatives in favour of active constituency engagement

  • Simplify election rules

“In the view of our committee, this is an excellent report that student unions should take very seriously”, said Matt Risser, Chair of the review’s Advisory Committee and former SMU Students’ Association VP External. “It highlights that student unions in Nova Scotia and across the country are not nearly as representative or accountable as they should be and must evolve.”

The review argues notably that student leaders are too busy managing projects to engage in governance and representation. Shifting managerial tasks to staff would allow elected representatives to focus more on stakeholder consultation and leadership.

“This report proposes ways for student unions to be more inclusive and representative of the diversity in the student body,” said Lisa Buchanan, member of the Advisory Committee and former Dalhousie Student Union Councillor. “Active engagement, governance by a compensated board, and improved election processes would help to get more students involved and mitigate the current preponderance of higher income students and men.”

The report was prepared by Queen’s University PhD candidate Michael Hughes. Hughes has previous public policy research experience in participatory governance and Aboriginal consultation in Northern Ontario, and is a graduate of SMU. The report was reviewed and accepted by an advisory committee comprised principally of former student union representatives from across the province based on pre-defined terms of reference.

Participating student unions included the Acadia Students’ Union, CBU Students’ Union, Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association, StFX Students’ Union and SMU Students’ Association. The work was funded by the Democracy 250 Youth Engagement Legacy Trust and the participating student unions. StudentsNS provided administrative support on behalf of the participating student unions.

The report is available online at:

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Students Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 37,794 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 86% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.


For more information, please contact:

Michael Hughes

Phone: 902 860 1810



Matt Risser, Advisory Committee Chair

Phone: 902 440 7664



Lisa Buchanan, Advisory Committee member

Phone: 902 802 5457



Brandon Hamilton, StudentsNS President

Phone: 902 867 2435


Kate Elliot