UK Politics

NUS president to step down

Having spectacularly misjudged the student protest movement NUS president, Aaron Porter, has said he will not be seeking a second term in the upcoming elections. This makes him only the second NUS president in more than 50 years not to serve a second term.

His exit will see the right and the left led by the Education Activist Network fight it out for the presidency.

The timing was all wrong for Porter. He simply did not come across or act like a student leader who could lead or help shape a protest movement.

He admitted as much himself after he apologised for his “spineless” lack of public support for university occupations around the country. He also failed to attend a national day of action.

If that wasn’t bad enough he sealed his fate after a leaked memo was published in the Daily Telegraph in December revealing that he had secretly urged the Coalition to make deep cuts in student grants and charge market rates of interest on student loans.

That perceived betrayal finished his credibility within the student movement and made Porter persona non grata as evidenced in January when he had to be given a police escort at a demonstration in Manchester.

Porter said he believes he would have “comfortably” won re-election, really? Well that makes for a very odd reason to stand down.

Porter’s statement in full below.

NUS President Aaron Porter said: The last few months have been momentous. Our response to the Government’s austerity measures will go down in the history books. We’ve kick started a wave of student action, brought the coalition to its knees, and we’ve shaped the public debate on education in an unprecedented fashion. This campaign began over 3 years ago- a long-term strategy to deliver a real alternative to a market in fees, and it’s a campaign I have been heavily involved in from the very beginning as a student officer in Leicester, as Vice President (Higher Education) and then as NUS President.

The Government’s decision to treble tuition fees was a bitter pill to swallow- and whilst a number of concessions were secured, notably for part-time students as well as an increased threshold of repayment for all graduates, this was still not the outcome we wanted. Thousands of students will now decide that Higher Education is not for them- and the ones that do get to go will be plunged into an era of market chaos. It’s a tragedy- and one that requires relentless pressure, both locally and nationally, to ensure that it is exposed and replaced with something better as soon as possible.

So this new regime brings with it a new landscape, and I believe NUS now needs reinvigorating into the next phase of this campaign. After considerable soul searching, I believe there needs to be a new President to lead the student movement into that next phase. As a result, I’ve resolved not to seek re-election at National Conference this year.

The challenge for a new National President will be great. They’ll need to support students’ unions and student officers to get the best deal for students, whilst running a major national campaign to defeat damaging marketisation in education. They’ll need to build activism and radicalism on the ground whilst defending legitimate, democratic students’ unions from attack from our enemies. Above all, they’ll need a fresh outlook- because if we are to reach out, and engage with, the full diversity of our membership, we need to move beyond the tired rhetoric and redundant tactics of some factional groups.

I want to say thank you to the hundreds of students and student officers who have been so supportive this year, and indeed for the nominations for a second term which I had already been sent. It goes without saying that with a white paper on its way, the next four months remain a huge opportunity for the organisation, and I will be relentless in ensuring I do the very best I can in the role.

We should continue to be proud of what we have achieved, and it has been an honour to be President at this time. If I have one criticism of this year, it would be that we have not been quick enough to talk about our achievements – and I hope we can pause for a moment to remedy this.

Let’s push on to make sure we credit ourselves for what we have achieved, and ensure we work together to push NUS and the student movement to the next level.

In unity,