The National Union of Students is looking for a new leader after its current president, Aaron Porter has said that he will not stand for re-election this coming April.
In a letter to The Guardian, he stated that he will not stand as attempts from external sources to discredit the NUS and personal attacks within threaten to split the union in two.
He said: “The politics of personal attacks threaten to turn the campaign inward at a time when our resilience must be at its highest. That is why I have decided there needs to be a new president to take us forward and why I informed our members that I would not be seeking re-election at our national conference.”
During Mr Porter’s time in office he had to deal with one of the biggest issues in decades to face students, the increase in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year.
The result involved protests up and down the country with marches in London and campaigns on campuses and it was during this time that Mr Porter condemned the occupation of Conservative headquarters by a small group of individuals.
Student activism showed a sharp increase whilst Mr Porter was president with students taking to the street and campuses in order to stand up for what they believe in.
However, during an anti-cuts rally held in Manchester in January, signs of cracks started to appear in the united front of the NUS.
Mr Porter had to be escorted away from the crowd after being heckled by a small group, who were implying that he had turned his allegiances to the Conservative party. Liberal Democrats have received similar criticism for voting in favour of the increase in tuition fees.
Since then a rift has appeared within the NUS with some members calling for more militant action in order for their voices to be heard.
This split was reflected when Mr Porter said that the campaign against an increase in student fees is “moving into a different landscape” and why “it is more vital than ever that we are united and reinvigorated.”
However, there are fears the task for the new president in a post tuition fee increase era will be a tough one.
One student said that “whoever comes after Aaron Porter will have to reconcile the apparent split within the NUS and calm the calls for more extreme measures which only serves to damage the unions reputation.
“Also, they will have to rebuild the confidence of its members that student voices can still be heard after being dealt the huge blow of increased tuition fees despite a well supported, high profile campaign.”
“Mr Porter’s legacy will be the revival of student protests, marches and sit-ins, a more engaged, articulate and stronger student voice but it is now debatable how unified that voice is after his term in office”.