University of Bristol Students’ Union’s (Bristol SU) Sorana Vieru has been elected as National Union of Students (NUS) Vice-President (Higher Education), marking the first time in over 15 years that a Bristol SU representative has been elected to a full-time NUS position.
Vieru, currently Bristol SU’s Postgraduate Officer, won 289 votes of 563 at the conference.
In what some considered to be a surprise, Vieru pushed University of Birmingham Guild’s Poppy Wilkinson into second place, with 167 votes. Third, with 98, was Hattie Craig, a National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts activist, and also a University of Birmingham student.
Craig tweeted congratulations to Vieru and fellow VP-elects Shelly Asquith and Shakira Martin, adding that they were ‘voted in on platforms further left than in a long time’.
When asked whether the results represented an NUS shift to the left, Bruce Galliver, President of Bath Spa Students’ Union, told Epigram, ‘Yes, as far as I know (not knowing political persuasions)… it certainly seems that some new officers are a lot more vocal about ideas associated with left-wing politics, with the most indicative of this being free education’.
Speaking to Epigram, Vieru said, ‘I’m ecstatic to have been elected VP HE and I’m grateful for the support I have received from Bristol students and sabbatical officers’.
‘It’s second time lucky for Bristol SU [Tom Flynn finished second in the same election in 2014]. I think the new team will shake things up in what’s set to be an interesting year.’
Bristol SU recently held the mandatory referendum alongside their elections, open to all students, asking whether or not they should remain affiliated with the NUS for another three years. The vote failed to gain the minimum amount of votes needed to be carried and so affiliation will be continue by default.
Vieru’s own focus is on accessibility and liberation of higher education. Her policies include fighting for bursaries and other financial aid that meets increasing costs of living alongside being accessible to mature, part-time and international students as well as trying to create a more innovative representation scheme to see more activism in student politics. She has also promised to run a campaign that hopes to champion student involvement in creating alternative assessments.
Vieru began her candidate speech by telling the conference about her journey into Higher Education as a Romanian migrant at the age of 16, saying students like her are often confronted with ‘sexism, with a side helping of xenophobia’.
She continued, ‘Vote for me, a Romanian immigrant, just to wind up Nigel Farage’, drawing laughter from conference floor.
She added that ‘even if the cost of living or access to education wasn’t an issue, the structural system of Higher Education needs to be reimagined’. She also rejected ‘the idea that you cannot be both practical and principled’.
The new NUS President will be Megan Dunn, who will succeed Toni Pearce in the role. The conference was shrouded in controversy as a motion to introduce a Trans Officer fell narrowly, prompting a bitter social media row. But many believe that the new candidates elected will represent a change in the direction of NUS.
For more of Sorana’s policies look here. If you have any thoughts on the conference or the NUS let us know in the comments or join us on social media.