Shakira Martin has been elected the next president of the UK’s National Union of Students, deposing incumbent Malia Bouattia with more than half the total votes cast.
Ms Martin, 28, is the NUS’ current vice-president (further education) and describes herself as a black single mother from a working-class family.
At the union’s national conference in Brighton, Ms Martin secured 402 votes, compared with 272 for Ms Bouattia and 35 for Tom Harwood, a politics student at Durham University who backed the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.
The result comes a year after Ms Bouattia herself defeated Megan Dunn, who was then the serving president, to become the NUS’ first black female leader. Ms Bouattia’s presidency was marked by ongoing political division within the NUS and she faced continued criticism for making comments that were allegedly anti-Semitic – something that she denied.
Ms Martin positioned herself as a centrist and said that she wanted to lead a union that focused on its members, not its leader. Having taken a leadership and management course at Lewisham College, she is the NUS’ second president to come from the further education sector, following in the footsteps of Toni Pearce, who led the union from 2013 to 2015.
Ms Martin said that she was “honoured and humbled” to become NUS president.
“I take this as a vote of trust that our members believe I can lead our national movement to be the fighting and campaigning organisation we need it to be, representing the breadth of our diverse membership,” she said. “Further education made me who I am today and I look forward to sharing stories of just how powerful all forms of education can be when we’re all given access to it.”
Also at the conference, Amatey Doku, president of Cambridge University Students' Union, was elected NUS vice-president (higher education). Izzy Lenga, a theology student at the University of Birmingham, was elected vice-president (welfare).
The successful candidates will start their new roles in the summer.