BUCS Facts & Information

BUCS – who we are and what we do

British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, a membership organisation, and a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, and our vision is simple –

                                            To enhance the student experience through sport

To support and promote the lifestyle and educational benefits to communities and individuals of taking part in sport, and to provide outstanding opportunities to all students to engage in sport and related activity in higher education

Through three key themes:

• Sport
• Education and development
• Profile

BUCS was inaugurated in 2008 as a result of a merger between University College Sport (the body which represented the professionals who worked in HE sport) and British University Sports Association (BUSA), the organisation which delivered leagues, competitions and events for inter university sports to over 150 member institutions across the entire UK.

BUCS Cross Country 2011

Now BUCS is larger and a broader, delivering 50 sports (everything from archery to ultimate frisbee) to almost 170 member institutions (now including some FE Colleges), comprising a busy league programme of over 4500 teams and over 100 championships events every year. These take place at iconic venues all over the UK, from Twickenham, the home of rugby, to the national watersports centre at Holmpierrepont in Nottingham, to Fistral Beach in Newquay to the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow. Two new major events have been developed to cope with the unprecedented demand for high level student competition, so 2013 will see the BUCS Big Wednesday event (14 team sports championships finals) take place at Leeds Met University in March, and over 6000 students will compete in the BUCS Nationals in Sheffield in Sheffield, bringing together 14 sports and the best student athletes in the country.

BUCS sport entries continue to grow year on year domestically, and this is supported by a full international programme, where British students can compete for their nation at World University Games and World University Championships, or in a kind of “Champions League” format, their university at European level. A recent research report helps illustrate why HE is important in the performance pathways for many sports, with a clear correlation demonstrated between world university success and Olympic success. See the international pages for more information.

What’s new?

Since 2008 BUCS has changed, so we now have a sport development unit, externally funded by Sport England, and engaged in driving participation in HE sport through key national relationships with landscape bodies and especially NGB’s. BUCS worked with Sport England to deliver the first direct investment of £8m into HE sport in the form of Active Universities in 2011, which is already paying dividends in the form of increased participation in HE. The continued partnership with Sport England has resulted in £25m of Whole Sport Plan investment being planned for HE in the next cycle, 2013 to 17, and there is a possibility that a further funding round will take place. BUCS hosts a range of professional network and development days around the country each year to support those who work in the sector. A Senior Managers Professional Network group is supported by BUCS, at which inspirational speakers share their expertise on a range of topics.  For more information, please see the Sport Development pages

BUCS has recently launched a new local league structure in London, targeting inter university participation below the BUCS competition structures.

BUCS also includes some disability provision in its programme and a separate disability strategy has been published.

For details of the BUCS Strategy 2013-17, please click here

Click here to take a look at the BUCS Annual Reports


BUCS was formed in June 2008, following a merger between University College Sport (UCS) and British Universities Sports Association (BUSA).

Andy Burnham MP and David Lammy MP hosted the BUCS official launch on 31 October 2008 at the Houses of Parliament. At the launch BUCS produced an overview of its strategy, this is available here.

You can also watch the launch videos from the evening here

BUCS is led by its Chief Executive, Karen Rothery and its Chair, Ed Smith. Further details about the Board can be found here.

In 2009, BUCS restructed its advisory and executive committees to provide a better feedback and consultative service to the membership. More on the Advisory Group and elected representatives can be found here

For more details about BUCS Governance structures, please click here

Why get involved?
Participation in sport at higher education institutions is already impressive:

  • One in four students take part in regular physical activity
  • 4712 BUCS sports teams operate on campus (2012/13 season), with the highest participation in rugby union, football and hockey 
  • 41% of university sports teams are female
  • Over 150 BUCS weekend sporting events take place each year
  • 36% of the student population is physically active in comparison to 21% of the general population (Sport England, Active People)
  • 58% of the GB Team competing in Beijing 2008 came through the higher education system
  • 67% of visits to university sporting facilities are from students, with 26% from community users and 8% from staff (NASS Survey 07/08)
  • BUCS members operate approx. £20bn worth of sporting facilities and amenities, including 145 fitness suites, 541 tennis courts and 139 sports halls
  • In 2009, the BUCS Championships generated £589,000 worth of economic impact and £190,000 of media value.


Want to know more?

BUCS HQ is based in Southwark, London with 27 members of staff. Two members of staff are based regional in the South West and Midlands. You can contact us on using our online form

Where has BUCS come from?

February 1918
The Presidents of University Unions conference in Manchester calls for the need to establish an ‘association’ to promote the development of sport at university

28 July 1919
The Inter-Varsity Athletics Board of England and Wales holds its first inter-varsity meeting consisting of nine universities

Association Football, Hockey, Rugby Union and Swimming are added to the events programme

November 1923
The Women’s Inter-Varsity Board (WIVAB) is created to cater for the needs of women students

The University of London provide accommodation for the association’s headquarters

The Universities Athletic Union (formerly the Inter-Varsity Athletics Board) is established. The following year it appoints its first secretary, Captain Evan A Hunter

A compulsory course in Physical Recreation is established for all first year students at university. Informal gatherings of tutors, lecturers and staff begin to discuss the merits of forming an association to represent those responsible for organising physical education, recreation, sport and health for students took place over several years. 

The British Universities Sports Board (BUSB) is formed to manage Britain’s student representation at an international level.

The Universities Physical Education Association (UPEA) is formed to represent staff responsible for sport at university.

The British Universities Sports Federation (BUSF) replaces the British Universities Sports Board. Membership of BUSF is open to all universities in the UK and University Colleges of Wales. The Scottish Universities Sports Federation, the University of Wales Athletic Union and the Northern Ireland Universities Sports Committee are corporate members. During this time, colleges and polytechnics are catered for by the British Colleges Sports Association and the British Polytechnic Sports Association

UPEA becomes British Universities Physical Education Association (BUPEA) at a conference at the University of Kent.

Men’s and women’s sport (WIVAB) in England and Wales come together under one organisation, Universities Athletic Union (UAU)

BUEPA merges with the Association of Polytechnic Physical Education Lecturers (APPEL) to become British Universities and Colleges Physical Education Association (BUCPEA)

November 1994
With the removal of the binary divide in higher education in 1992, a new single organisation is needed to represent the sporting interests of students. UAU and BUSF merge to create British Universities Sports Association (BUSA)

BUCPEA is renamed as University and College Sport (UCS)

June 2005
Scottish Universities Sport (SUS) is established to ensure quality and breadth in well-managed sporting programmes, increasing and promoting involvement in physical activity, and aiding and supporting the development of appropriate professional structures and systems throughout sport in higher education in Scotland.

January 2006
A symposium, held in Coventry, agrees to investigate how the experience and expertise of BUSA and UCS can be brought together to create a new body for sport on campus

13 June 2008
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is incorporated as the new, national voice for university sport.