Congratulations on taking the first step to becoming an integral part of the Student Union. By getting involved in our democratic elections you’ll be helping to shape the future of the student experience here at Heriot-Watt University.

We want to make sure we have free and fair elections that are enjoyable for everyone, candidates and students alike. Please take the time to read these rules and if you have any questions please ask a member of Union staff.


Contact Info

Deputy Returning Officer

Heather Innes


Student Union

Christy O'Toole



Sports Union

Karen Hanson

National Union of Students (NUS)

NUS provide guidance as an independent body.  They hear appeals against decisions made by the Deputy Returning Officer or make rulings about the expulsion of candidates.

Where to find important information about this election

Details of important dates and times for elections can be found at

You can download the job descriptions at

You should make sure you know when the important things are happening. These are:

  • When applications open and close
  • Where and when the mandatory candidate briefing takes place
  • Where and when Candidate Question Time takes place
  • When voting opens and closes
  • When results will be announced

A description of all the positions available in the election along with information about the posts can be found at  Sports Union candidates should speak to their contact in the Sports Union Office.

The Elections Process Step by Step

Step 1.  APPLYING.

This is the bit where you put your name down to stand for election.  It is really straightforward but slightly different depending on whether you want to stand for election in the Student Union or Sports Union.

Student Union Candidates

  • Visit follow the link to the election page and you can apply online*. You will also find the useful How-To Apply guide when you click the Apply link.

Sports Union Candidates

  • Get a nomination form from the Sports Union Office
  • Complete the form making sure you get the necessary nominations
  • Get the form back to the Sports Union before the deadline

* Student Union candidates who have previously been subject to Recall should speak to the Deputy Returning Officer about their nomination first.

Step 2.  Get your campaign ready.

When thinking about your campaign you should consider:

  • What issues do students want to see changes to?
  • What ideas do you have to make these changes?
  • What friends will you rope in to help you?
  • How will you get your ideas across to students?

The Student Union and Sports Union staff have supported well over 100 student elections between them. This means they’ve pretty much seen it all and know exactly what works and what doesn’ use their knowledge.

There are a range of sessions available to help you get your manifesto ideas together, make sure to make use of these.

Step 3.  Write a manifesto (Student Union only).

A manifesto is a published declaration of what you will do if elected. You will answer four set questions:

1. What campaigns or student issues are most important to you? 
2. What skills and experience would you bring to the role?
3. Why do you want the role? 
4. Where can I find out more about your campaign? 

ELECTION RULE: All Student Union candidates must provide a manifesto using the structure provided.

You will upload your supporting statement on once you have attended the Candidate Briefing.

Step 4.  Attend a Candidate Briefing

The Candidate Briefing gives you more information about these rules and also gives you some ideas about campaigning.

Step 5.  Campaigning

You have a few days to get other students to decide you’re the best person for the job and elect you. You need to get your ideas out and convince students to vote for you.

Here’s a checklist to tick off while you campaign:

  1. Know what your priorities would be if elected, and explain why these are important
  2. Talk to students – it is the most effective way to get them to vote for you
  3. Don't harass anyone by sending lots of repetitive messages, instead start conversations!
  4. Get your friends involved with anything from designing your posters to talking to students
  5. Set up a social media page
  6. Talk to students – we’re going to keep saying it
  7. Be creative and eye catching
  8. Be yourself
  9. Talk to students – because research shows it’s what makes students vote!

Step 6.  Online Voting

Voting is online at

Check the elections website or see the Deputy Returning Officer for exact times voting will be open.

Any student who wants to make a complaint about the elections must do so using the complaints form to the Deputy Returning Officer before the close of voting.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) method will apply.  The Electoral Reform Society has a useful guide to STV.  Re-Open Nominations will be used for all Student Union positions.

The election count is conducted electronically and is overseen by the Deputy Returning Officer.

The Rules

We have a few simple rules that candidates need to follow. These aren’t definitive by any stretch so please use your common sense. When in doubt it is always best to ask the Deputy Returning Officer for advice.

Social Media

  1. Candidates with official accounts associated with the Student Union or Sports Union must not use them for the purpose of elections.
  2. Societies and Sports clubs may endorse candidates, but have no obligation to.

Using Student Union and Sports Union resources

  1. Student staff/volunteers cannot campaign during their hours/undertaking Student Union or Sports Union duties.
  2. Staff and students must not campaign while wearing Union branded uniform.
  3. Resources such as stationary and printers cannot be used free of charge for your campaign.
  4. Salaried Student Union and Sports Union staff are neutral and must not be asked to show support or preference for any candidates.

General Rules

  1. You are not permitted to use a resource you have access to unless it is generally available to other people. Please speak to the Deputy Returning Officer if you need clarification.
  2. Items that are upcycled that are generally available to other people will not incur a charge to your campaign budget. For example using cardboard boxes will be free of charge.
  3. All Union and University rules are election rules. You can download the University rules here.
  4. Student Union candidates must not go over their budget.
  5. Two or more candidates are allowed to run a joint campaign. Any campaign materials promoting more than one candidate will be charged the same value to each candidate’s expenses.
  6. You may not use existing University email lists to ask for votes.
  7. University, Student Union and Sports Union staff must remain impartial, they cannot support a candidate.
  8. You may not campaign in Computer Labs, The Library or The Learning Commons.
  9. Current Student Union officers must take annual leave to campaign either for themselves or another candidate.
  10. You must not offer bribes as part of any campaign.
  11. You must not intimidate or coerce voters at any point during the election.
  12. You must not communicate with voters in any way at the point that they are casting their vote.
  13. You must not take any voters electronic devices to vote on their behalf at any point.

Campaign Costs

Sports Union Candidates

Print quota

25 A4 photocopies (order from the Sports Union Office)

Campaign budget

There is no allocated budget for candidates and expenses are met out of your own pocket.

Student Union Candidates

Campaign budget

There is a limit that each candidate can spend on their campaign.

The budget for Full-time Officer candidates (President, VP Community, VP Education and VP Wellbeing) is to be confirmed once applications have closed. Usually this is around £50.

Members of Parliament candidates have a maximum budget of £15.

All candidates can have 25 colour A4 photocopies, email

Expenses will be reimbursed by the Union once an expenses sheet has been submitted with receipts or other sufficient evidence at the discretion of the Deputy Returning Officer. The deadline for submitting these expenses is 3rd November 2023.

The Deputy Returning Officer shall have the authority to reduce the amount of expenditure allowed for any candidate if they infringe election rules.


Complaints must be made using the complaints form as soon as you are aware of a rule breach.

Download Complaint Form

Complaints must provide details of the election rule which is alleged to have been broken along with evidence.

Complaints must be received in writing before the close of voting.

On receipt of a complaint the Deputy Returning Officer will investigate and decide if action is necessary. Should a candidate be in breach of these rules the potential actions are:

  1. An informal warning
  2. A formal warning
  3. A reduction in campaign budget
  4. Disqualification
  5. Any other action deemed necessary by the Deputy Returning Officer

Instances resulting in disqualification of a candidate will be referred to the National Union of Students.

Candidates can appeal a decision made by the Deputy Returning Officer. Appeals must provide details of the original complaint and evidence to support the appeal.