NUS Scotland president Liam Burns has been elected as the new leader of the National Union of Students UK.
Mr Burns will replace current president Aaron Porter on 1 July 2011 for an initial one-year term.
The 26-year-old, who is a member of the Labour Party, defeated three other presidential candidates in the election at the NUS national conference in Gateshead on 6 April.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Burns said: “I am honoured and delighted to have been elected NUS UK National President for the year to come.
“It’s going to be a hugely challenging year across the UK for both further and higher education. I am looking forward to working tirelessly to defend, extend, and promote the rights of students.”
He told The Journal that he was "particularly grateful for the support that students from Scotland provided me at national conference."
In the third and final round of voting Mr Burns secured a comfortable victory over NUS vice-president for further education Shane Chowen, receiving a total of 446 votes — a 60 per cent majority.
Far-left candidate Mark Bergfeld, a current member of the NUS National Executive Council, was voted out in the second round. The following day, Mr Bergfeld faced a motion of censure brought against him on the grounds that his language towards some Conservative conference delegates had been intimidating, specifically a reference to "Tory scumbag millionaires".
The plaintiff, understood to be a delegate from Grantham College, claimed Mr Bergfeld had created a conference environment that was 'inaccessible' to members of the Conservative Party. The motion failed to pass.
Thomas Byrne, a member of the Conservative Party and co-founder of Students for Tuition Fee Reform, exited the race in the first round of voting after receiving just 18 votes.
Current NUS president Aaron Porter announced in February that he would not seek re-election, amid accusations that he had been ‘weak’ on tackling tuition fees and claims that NUS leadership had lost touch with the student community. Mr Porter will be only the second president since 1969 not to serve a second term.
It is thought that Mr Chowen’s association with Mr Porter may have damaged his electoral chances. The vice-president, formerly president of City College Plymouth, did not attend university and would have been the first non-graduate leader of the NUS.
Mr Burns studied physics at Heriot-Watt University, where he served as president of the students’ union in 2007/08. He received a total of 446 votes in that election, an identical majority to that which won him the NUS national presidency last week.
He was elected president of NUS Scotland in 2009 and has been a popular leader. After initially winning the position on the back of a coin-toss after a tied election, he was re-elected by a landslide vote in 2010.
He is credited with securing millions of pounds in funding for disadvantaged and vulnerable students and has led a successful campaign against the introduction of tuition fees in Scotland, securing commitments from the SNP, Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats.
However, Mr Burns has made it clear that free education is untenable in the rest of the UK, and will campaign for a graduate tax, where contributions are pegged to earnings above a certain threshold.
He said: “I truly believe that a tax on well-off graduates, free of any price tag, is not only a fair way to fund student support and sector funding, but the fairest way in the context of other spending priorities.”
Speaking at the conference, he insisted that the battle over tuition fees has not been lost. “There’s never been a policy when the sums add up so badly," he said. "It’s a regressive policy that hasn’t even saved them any money.”
The NUS national conference also saw Ed Marsh re-elected as vice-president of union development. Toni Pearce will replace Mr Chowen as the new vice-president of further education.
Robin Parker, president of Aberdeen University Students’ Association, will succeed Mr Burns as president of NUS Scotland.