What are the changes?
We currently have two key governing documents: the Constitution, and the Rules & Regulations. Together they define who we are and why we exist.
The Constitution can only be changed by a vote of the membership. The Rules & Regulations can be changed by a vote of the Committee.
This proposal is to replace both documents with a new constitution that combines elements from both and adds important new sections.
The major changes are that:
- Membership is no longer open to anyone. Only current and recent students and apprentices can be members. Anyone else can become a Friend.
- Branches are no longer limited to being university societies, but must be run by students or young people.
- There is now an association of Alumni (former members) and Friends (people who want to support UKSEDS but are ineligible for membership).
- No-one can serve on the Executive Committee for more than 3 years.
- The Board of Trustees has been significantly expanded to include 6 non-members who will have oversight over the Executive Committee.
- There is now a Board of Advisors who provide expert advice, and are the pool from which Trustees are chosen.
- The Constitution can only be amended at the Annual General Meeting.
- The Constitution now contains all the relevant sections of the Charity Commission's model constitution (pdf).
Additionally several key sections, such as our charitable objectives, have been rephrased to make them clearer, and processes for things like the appointment of staff, termination of membership, proxy voting, and the appointment of Trustees, are now stated explicitly to avoid any confusion.
We have some other governance documents about things like expenses and how we handle personal data. They will not be affected by this change and remain subordinate to the Constitution.
The changes to the constitution are being proposed alongside a legal restructuring of UKSEDS from being an unincorporated charity to being a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
Why are these changes necessary?
The current constitution defines our name and objectives, and gives a little bit of information about our governance. It does not say who can be a member, what a branch is, or what the committee should do. That information is defined in the Rules & Regulations, which can easily be changed without consultation.
Moving those things to the Constitution helps prevent any abuse of power, and makes our governance and procedures clear and transparent.
The current consitution also lacks lots of important sections from the Charity Commission's model constitution that cover things like our compliance with the Charities Act 2011, members' liability of we go bankrupt, and how we should handle conflicts of interest.
These aren't things we have to worry about most of the time, but they are important to have in case problems do arise.
There are also several changes (outlined above) which we think will make UKSEDS stronger. A simplified membership system will make UKSEDS less confusing and easier for us to administer. Creating an association of Alumni and Friends will help us build a support network in the space sector. Introducing a Board of Advisors, and a larger number of non-student Trustees will help ensure that there is proper oversight of our actions.
What happens now?
There will be a three week long consultation period from now until the 21st February, in which anyone can review the proposed changes, ask any questions, and raise any issues they have.
Any suggested changes to the draft will then be considered by the Executive Committee and a final draft will be published on 28th February.
The Committee is also seeking legal advice to ensure the proposed Constitution is legally sound, and recommendations from the lawyers will be added to the final text.
Following this there will be a vote at our Annual General Meeting, which is being held at the conclusion of the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference at the University of Exeter on 5th March. All registered members are eligible to cast a single vote in favour or in opposition to the motion to change.
Members without tickets to the conference may still attend AGM, and should contact the Secretary. Any members who cannot attend the AGM in person should appoint a proxy or make their voting intentions known to the Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org).Read the Draft
If you prefer PDFs: