The National Union of Students has just elected its new President, Larissa Kennedy, by a margin of just one vote. The vote breakdown of the election was made public in a leaked Twitter post. Kennedy, currently a Sabbatical Officer working at Warwick’s Student Union, narrowly beat out Erica Ramos by 246 votes to 245, after 4 rounds of voting. Ramos is currently NUS VP for Union Development, serving as VP for Business and Law Middlesex SU prior to that.
Kennedy had 203 first preferences to Ramos’ 199, and by the penultimate round the two were tied at 208 votes apiece. Kennedy will become the 61st President of the NUS, seeing it through its 100th year of existence.
Current President Zamzam Ibrahim expressed her delight at passing on the “baton to the most incredible and principled activist I know, she’ll make an incredible President and I am going to rooting for her every step of the way.” Kennedy congratulated Ramos and the other candidates she ran against for their “exemplary leadership in your ideas and campaigns” with the hope of taking them forward too under her leadership.
In her manifesto, Kennedy explained how “the student movement has been my home since I was 16 years old” having marched against sexual violence and student fees in the past. Some of the policies advocated by her include the introduction of regional bootcamps for student organisers, bringing back the Education Maintenance Allowance, rejecting the higher tariff placed on STEM courses, and a “Fight for Free Education and to democratise our colleges, universities, and unions.”
Kennedy also noted how 70% of NUS members are in Further Education, proposing a colloborative approach which would “Involve the National Society of Apprentices in our democratic structures, fight for free travel, better wages, stronger protections against harassment and more opportunities”
Ramos’ manifesto chose to foreground housing and mental health, pledging a “24 hour student mental health helpline and a legal right to a counselling appointment within 2 weeks” and “Real increases to maintenance income in every part of the UK and for every type of student.” On top of this she sought to “deliver a 20% increase in funding for SUs” and “Lead a new SU Impact Agenda, ensuring student voices and their lived experience are at the heart of decision making in their education system and government.”
The Executive leadership is rounded up by Salsabeel Elmegri (Vice President, Further Education) and Hillary Gyebi Ababio (Vice President, Higher Education). Kennedy expressed on Twitter that was “excited (…) to drive forward our vision of a free, lifelong and accessible education system.
The NUS has often invited controversy in the past. The Union sits on the boards of HEFCE, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OFFA) and UCAS, seeking to represent the views and interests of all students. In 2016 57% of Oxford students rejected a motion to disaffiliate after the sitting President was accused of making anti-semitic remarks. At a time when Universities are coming under increasing scrutiny by the public and the government for no-platforming, and the future status of international students remains uncertain, these are just some of the myriad of issues Kennedy will have to navigate during her tenure.