Candidates for the National Union of Students' presidential elections next Tuesday have everything to play for since the dominant issue of student funding remains unresolved.
Voters at the union's annual conference in Blackpool need to decide whether two years of independent leadership has served them better than the previous 18 years under Labour.
Outgoing president Owain James has urged students to ensure that Labour Students do not return to power by voting for the mainstream independent candidate Brooks Duke, who is NUS vice-president.
Independent supporters say distance from the Labour government is crucial if students are to be a credible force in education policy-making. Mr Duke's platform rests on the abolition of fees and the return of the maintenance grant.
Labour candidate Mandy Telford, president of NUS Scotland, insists that she has stood up to the Labour Party and will not be a soft touch. She is pressing for a graduate tax for those earning more than £25,000.
The third candidate is Carli Harper Pennan, NUS lesbian, gay and bisexual officer, who believes students are ready for a change.
Ms Pennan opposes the graduate tax idea and is pushing for a non-means tested grant for post-16 students.