The top job at the National Union of Students is in the sights of Shakira Martin, currently vice president for FE, who has confirmed she is running for president in the April 2017 elections.
Ms Martin made the announcement at noon today (March 7) on her Facebook and Twitter accounts with a short video (see below).
She said: “It is now more than ever that we need to build a strong, fighting union that is campaigning to win for students.
“The government is slashing our education left right and centre, and you need a strong national union to fight on your behalf … We need to put NUS back in your hands.”
Ms Martin said she would bring “vibrancy, fire, energy”and innovation to the role if she wins.
She has been a forceful spokesperson for FE since her election as NUS VP for FE in April 2015, when she replaced Joe Vinson in the job.
In April 2016 she was uncontested for re-elections to the post, winning with 152 votes compared to only 11 votes to re-open the nominations.
If she scoops the role of president, she will be the second ever VP for FE to be elected as the leader of the students’ union, after Toni Pearce , who was VP or FE from 2011 to 2013, made the jump into power in July 2013.
Ms Martin, 28, who has two young daughters, would also be the second NUS leader to have attended an FE college instead of studying at university.
She studied a range of courses at Lewisham College from 2005, including a level five diploma in education and teaching, and held the roles of college’s student union president, women’s officer and student liaisons officer.
She has also studied at Bromley College and Morley College in the past.
In 2016, Ms Martin championed a new campaign to force the government to recognise the impact that post-16 area reviews were having on learners.
The #FEunplugged campaign was officially launched in January 2016, with the aim of raising “the profile of area reviews and making sure the student voice is not ignored during the process”.
Later in the year she also began work with former business secretary Sir Vince Cable, on a research project into how major reforms coming for the sector should be tailored for learners entitled ‘Students Shaping FE’, the findings of which will be published in a report by autumn 2017.
Speaking about the project in November last year, Ms Martin said: “The fact that there is not going to be, as it stands, a student voice on the apprenticeship policing body, the Institute for Apprenticeships is a disgrace. That’s the sort of thing we need to address.
“It will be a pleasure working on this ambitious project together.”
Subsequently in December 2016, apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halon confirmed that the IfA board would be advised by an apprentice panel, though the appointment of an apprentice to the board itself is yet to be achieved.
Ms Martin said at the time: “This is a victory for the apprentices and learners who called for better representation in the IfA.”
However, she added: “We still believe that, ultimately, the only way to be serious about learner voice and apprentice representation is to give them two full seats on the board itself.”
The 2017 NUS elections will take place at the union’s national conference in Brighton on April 25-27, 2017.
Current president Malia Boutattia was elected president on April 20 last year. Previously the NUS’ black students’ officer, Ms Bouattia won in stage one of the count – by 372 votes to 328 for previous national president Megan Dunn.
She is the first black and minority ethnic woman to hold the role, but previously sparked some controversy because of an article she co-authored in 2011, in which she said the University of Birmingham was “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education”.
An open letter was reportedly sent to Ms Bouattia shortly before her election from protesters and heads of student Jewish societies asking: “Why do you see a large Jewish society as a problem?”
Ms Bouattia reportedly responded to the letter by saying that she was “deeply concerned” that her views had been misconstrued, and highlighting her dedication to “liberation, equality and inclusion”.
Watch Ms Martin’s announcement in full here:
Day 0: My announcement pic.twitter.com/MPActsFLVj
— Shakira Martin (@ShakiraSweet1) March 7, 2017