Outsider runs on anti-NUS platform

February 14, 2003

A postgraduate whose website has become a popular forum for attacks on the "impotence" of the National Union of Students is one of seven candidates battling it out to be the next NUS president.

Joe Rukin, founder of educationnet.org, the grassroots students' news and campaign website, has thrown his hat in the ring for the presidential elections at April's NUS annual conference in Blackpool.

Mr Rukin, a postgraduate student at Coventry University, is standing as an "independent independent" fighting Labour Party dominance of the NUS. His election manifesto says: "Posturing, factional infighting, doing the bidding of party masters - this is what has made the NUS the embarrassment it is today."

He told The THES : "If you say to any of the 3.5 million students that the party that abolished the grant in 1997, brought in fees and is going to charge top-up fees is the one running the NUS, what would they say? We need to break the cycle. The NUS has to reform or die."

Mr Rukin caused a furore in September when he branded the NUS's anti-drinking campaign "the most useless campaign ever". He said its effort to encourage sensible drinking reinforced stereotypes of drunken students at a time when ministers were trying to soften up the public for higher tuition fees by portraying students as spending their loans on booze.

Incumbent president Mandy Telford, the official Labour Students candidate, is standing for a second term. She said: "We have stood up to the government and had some really successful campaigns. Although it is a pittance, the government has brought back grants. The fight is not over yet, and we need to get the job done."

There are five other candidates, including NUS women's officer and Campaign for Free Education candidate Kat Fletcher and NUS treasurer Dervish Mertcan. The Conservative Party will be represented by Andre Walker. There will be a strong anti-war message from the remaining candidates, Sukant Chandan, former Sussex University education officer and campaigner for Palestinian rights, and Plymouth University international student Omar Bachache.

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