Ms Pearce, who is currently NUS vice-president for further education, has pledged to campaign for a single admissions and applications system for all education and a financial support system that “actually works for students”.
In her election manifesto, she also advocates the development of an “activist development programme that reaches more students than ever before”.
Ms Pearce, formerly president of Cornwall College students’ union, was named NUS president-elect after a ballot of delegates at the union’s conference in Sheffield today in which she gained more than half of the valid votes. She is the first president not to have been educated at a higher education institution.
Speaking to Times Higher Education before the results were announced, she said her first task would be to set out the union’s vision both with students and the public more widely. “Education isn’t just about the people in it at the moment,” she said.
“I’m really proud we’ve come to the point in the student movement when we can elect somebody from a college given that colleges represent the vast majority of our student movement.”
Ms Pearce added that the vote had not been a choice between higher education and further education.
“I’m not just the FE candidate,” she said, outlining her vision for a “single education system where universities and colleges aren’t divided”.
“I want to lead a movement that’s united around this vision for education,” she said.
Ms Pearce’s election campaign had the support of outgoing president Liam Burns, who said: “We had three exceptional candidates, and I’m absolutely delighted that Toni has been elected the first NUS president from a further education background. The NUS is in safe hands.” Ms Pearce will take over as president on July 1.
Also contesting the final vote were NUS vice-president for union development Vicki Baars and Peter Smallwood, vice-president for academic representation at the Union of Brunel Students. Sam Gaus, who had entered the race as bearer of “an inanimate carbon rod” withdrew his candidacy earlier today.