by Stuart Hewitt
Outgoing NUS President Aaron Porter spoke to the Delegate on the eve of his fifth and final NUS conference.
Much of the build up to this year’s conference has focused on whether the student movement has been divided and factionalised. However, one thing that all students can agree on is that Porter has presided over NUS in one of the most turbulent years in the union’s history. Porter is keen to stress that although a post-mortem of his tenure is needed it should be swift and decisive in order to focus on the issues of the future.
“I’m really looking forward to it as a conference, not just because it’s my final one but because it’s been a momentous year. I’m looking forward to seeing a new leadership coming to the fore of NUS and one that can take NUS forward.”
Porter was also quick to warn whoever succeeds him not to be swayed by the agendas of those “who occupy the fringes.”
The former President of Leicester University Students Union said, “Sometimes those fringe groups can be quite intimidating, they can be quite demanding. But we’re here to represent the mainstream majority view, we’re not here to be dominated by any particular extreme. Whoever gets elected cannot allow themselves to be held to ransom, particularly by those who frankly don’t have a democratic mandate.”
Porter talks reverently about Shane Chowen, the candidate he is backing to pick up the mantle of NUS President. “Shane is head and shoulders above the others because he has the ability to unite a team and present a new narrative that i don’t think the other candidates do.”
Chowen, who is currently VP for Further Education, has never been to University and although he is widely respected within the student movement some have raised this issue. Porter however prefers to see it as a positive, “There is something incredibly powerful about someone that has not yet been to university saying to the government the reason I care about the funding system and standards in our Universities is because I am yet to go there.”
But not focusing ourselves into a blame game of was it my fault, was it the hard-left’s fault or whether it was because we did too many demos or not enough demos. The time for a post-mortem needs to be short and sharp. The debate needs to be about the future.
Porter’s announcement in February that he was to step down as NUS President was a break from the union norm of two year Presidential tenures but again Porter is keen to paint this fact in a positive light. “I’m pleased i’m one of the only full-time NUS officers not to have done two years. Shouldn’t be the status quo that you do Two years should not be the status quo and it was right for me to leave because I have practically done what I wanted to do and time to move on.”
After five years of service to student politics Porter is currently weighing up his considerable options in the wider world. Porter admitted that he has gained an engorged media profile this year due to the attention afforded the student movement this year. Several production companies have approached him with offers of presenting documentaries.