NUS leader-elect eyes higher loans

April 3, 1998

The newly-elected leader of the National Union of Students has vowed to make ending student hardship his priority and called for more money from government to do it.

Andrew Pakes, NUS treasurer, will take over the presidency in June when Douglas Trainer steps down.

He said he wanted students to be able to get larger loans to ease their lives at university. "If they have the benefit of an education, of being able to take part in a course, be involved in union policy and in sports and do all that with money provided for them, they will be willing to make the contribution back, when they can afford it," he said.

The 24-year-old bisexual Labour student, who beat far-left candidate Kate Buckell by just 15 votes, said he wanted to unite as many factions of the party as possible. "We have focused too much on divisions in the students' union, rather than what brings us together," he said.

To this end, he has promised campaigns on the environment, sport and student development, as well as liberation campaigns on race and sexuality.

But the close result was hailed as a triumph by the far-left United for Free Education grouping, which unexpectedly also saw one of its candidates elected treasurer by more than 100 votes.

Tommy Hughes, who says he is not affiliated to any political party, said his election showed that the student body was becoming more broadly reflective of student opinions.

"It's all very well for the NUS leadership to say they won't fight abolition of the grant but of course students believe the grant should be kept," he said.

He said he would support a "can't pay, won't pay" policy as part of the no fee campaign.

Labour Student-supported candidates secured the posts of both vice-president (education) and vice-president (welfare).

Mr Pakes said the fact he was a Labour Student did not mean he would keep quiet over fees. "Our campaign is to scrap the legislation," he said.He wants fees ruled out and an enhanced maintenance package with extra money from government and industry.

His ambitions for the next year are "To say we have defeated fees, that we have protected the four-year Scottish degree and have defended quality." His ambition for the evening after the election? To demolish a whole bottle of gin.

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