Liam Burns has been elected as the new President of the National Union of Students (NUS) succeeding Aaron Porter in the role. Burns beat three other contestants including Thomas Byrne, a first-year University of York student.
Burns gained a final total of 446 votes in the last round of voting to become president, defeating rivals Shane Chowen, Mark Bergfeld and Thomas Byrne – who gained a total of 18 votes.
Burns will take over from Porter who will be the first president of the NUS since 1969 not to seek re-election for a second term.
Following the announcement Burns commented: “It’s going to be a hugely challenging year for both further and higher education. I am looking forward to working tirelessly to defend, extend, and promote the rights of students.”
Burns is a 26-year-old physics graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh where he was the President of the Students’ Union.
Burns is currently the President of the NUS in Scotland and has managed to secure commitments from Scottish politicians to rule out the possibility of introducing fees in the next term of the Scottish Parliament in this role.
When asked to comment on his strategy for defeating the government agenda for higher education he said that he thought students needed to “reject consumerism” as the framework for the debate about universities.
He said: “We have to ensure that we’re not won over by the temptation to act like the consumers the Government wants us to become. It might be justified to start demanding a better education under the guise of ‘value for money’, but it would be the wrong thing to do.
“We can’t end up in a position where students have been pacified as a generation content with ‘you get what you pay for’ if we are to win the argument for reintroduction of public money in higher education and a fairer funding system.”
He added that he believed “we don’t need to resort to market rationale to continue that campaigning.” When asked to offer his own solution to the problem of funding higher education Burns has said that he feels the fairest approach is to place a tax on higher earning graduates.
Aaron Porter decided not to run for re-election as President after accusations of a lack of support for students protesting against the increase in fees put pressure on him in the last few months. Porter is not seen to have done enough to try and prevent the rise in fees and the newly elected President Liam Burns has been critical of the way Porter has handled the different factions within the NUS.
After the violence at the Demolition march last November Burns criticised the measures taken but stressed the need for direct action. Burns takes over on the 1 July and will immediately be facing many universities announcing an increase in fees with the BBC suggesting that half of the 54 universities it surveyed would be charging the full £9,000.
Speaking to Nouse on Burns’s election, failed York candidate Thomas Byrne said: “Although I don’t share his vision for the NUS, Liam has certainly been the most welcoming. Good luck to him, time will tell if he puts his party affiliations before students like we’ve seen in the past.”