NUS conference 2013: what you missed

26 April 2013

The National Union of Students (NUS) conference took place in Sheffield earlier this month from 8-10 April. Over 1,000 students from more than 400 education institutions gathered to discuss potential proposals, elect future NUS delegates and vote on current issues that are affecting undergraduates around the UK.

The results of the Union’s election saw 23-year-old Toni Pearce (pictured above) succeeded Liam Burns as president, aftershe defeated independent candidate Vicki Baars, Conservative contender Peter Smallwood and UCL’s candidate Samuel Gaus, who was representing the Inanimate Carbon Rod.

Pearce is known for differing from the other candidates due to her decision not to attend university. She previously stated that both the high tuition fees and her parents’ non-university backgrounds influenced her decision to forgo further education. Pearce has enthusiastically supported alternatives to higher education, helping to implement an employment strategy with other union members. Additionally, she promised increased involvement with student unions across the United Kingdom.

A walk-out involving over 100 students was held during the hustings for Vice President of Higher Education when Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) candidate Tomas Evans defended his party from allegations of rape-apologism. Peterhouse Women’s Officer Hannah Laidley, said: “I would say that is an example of why it is important to take rape allegations seriously. Had the SWP taken these complaints to the police and been transparent in their proceedings, people would have been more likely to believe them when they claimed to be fighting sexism.

“I’m not surprised so many people walked out during his speech. It seems like he’s belittling the allegations of the women in his party, and that makes people angry.”

The event was mired in further controversy when it transpired that attendees were said to have applauded after being told of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Following the incident, Liam Burns released a statement that advised delegates to “think very carefully indeed about how respond to this news.”

Other topics that were discussed during the conference included the continuing struggle with the government over the rise in tuition fees and an apparent prevalence of ‘lad culture’. The delegates and attendees also looked at the effectiveness of student demonstrations such as Demo2012, which took place last December. Though not prioritised, the issue of women’s rights was also looked into.

Emily Handley – News Reporter

Photo – NUS