Megan Dunn faces a challenge from within her own executive as she bids to be re-elected as president of the National Union of Students.
Malia Bouattia, the NUS’ black students’ officer, will stand against Ms Dunn for the top job at the union’s annual conference in April, as will Adil Waraich, the former president of De Montfort Students’ Union.
Ms Dunn, formerly NUS vice-president (higher education) and president of Aberdeen University Students’ Association, may face stiffer opposition for the national presidency than she did when she was first elected last year. Then, her only opponent was Beth Redmond, who was backed by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
The current president has led high-profile battles against government cuts and is a prominent campaigner for the UK to remain in the European Union, but has faced challenges to her authority from an increasingly militant national executive council.
Ms Bouattia played a key role in the Students Not Suspects tour of campuses which opposed the government’s Prevent anti-terrorism agenda, and from which Ms Dunn withdrew union support because of the campaign’s links to the controversial organisation Cage.
Ms Dunn’s manifesto says that, if re-elected, she would create a fighting fund to defend students’ unions from government threats to their legitimacy and autonomy, oppose increases in tuition fees, and launch a commission to tackle the “vindictive personal attacks and bullying” that mar the student movement.
“We have to build a movement that can stand up to these challenges and can win these arguments in every community centre, every college, every university, and every boardroom and on every street corner,” Ms Dunn said. “I believe that we can build this movement together, a movement that doesn’t just shout and scream and fight, but a movement that wins.”
Ms Bouattia’s manifesto says that she would “bring back traditions of NUS activism”, challenge the government’s “xenophobic agendas”, and put the liberation of minority groups “at the heart of everything we do”.
“We need a proactive president who encourages campaigns and self-organisation on the ground, and leads a united movement in the face of harsh and sustained cuts to student support and our education,” the manifesto says.
Mr Waraich resigned as president of the De Montfort union last month, having been suspended since November. He said that this was because he had published a video in which he criticised the university for making David Cameron a “companion” of the university.
His manifesto says the NUS needs a “committed president who challenges the status quo and, crucially, isn’t corrupted or spoiled by the current culture”.
“Our organisation representing millions of students caters for union staff stuck in their ways and sabbatical officers that sometimes have lost touch with their members,” Mr Waraich says. “It is about time [the] NUS truly bridged the gap for the regular student.”
Several other key executive members face re-election battles of their own at the conference, held in Brighton from 19 to 21 April.
Sorana Vieru, vice-president (higher education), is being challenged by Priscilla Mensah, president of Cambridge University Students’ Union.
Shelly Asquith, vice-president (welfare), will be opposed by Munya Mudarikiri, vice-president (voice) at the University of Surrey Students’ Union.