In April 1966, an organization called the University College Academic Staff Association was registered with the Registrar of Societies. The association was very much a social organization which welcomed and sent off expatriate staff as they joined and left college.

Prior to 1972, most lecturers at the University of Nairobi were members of the University Staff Association, which was provided for in the University of Nairobi Act (1970). The staff association was entitled to representation in the University Council.

The Association was transformed into a Union due to inability to access certain information crucial to staff welfare. Some Dons had rejected membership of this body which they regarded as part of the government machinery to curb academic freedom. For this reason, they took the initiative of registering UASU.

The move was unpopular with the University Council because the Union Constitution provided the strike action as a last resort. The association members decided to form a trade union which could make certain demands with the backing of the law.

Although there was a lot of lobbying from Council and certain Senate members to association members to reconsider their decisions and revert to association, the pressure that came with being unrepresented in Council and its committees, members in 1972 voted overwhelmingly to remain in a trade union.

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