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FE candidate pipped to the post of NUS president

The National Union of Students (NUS) is still waiting for its first FE president after Shane Chowen came second in elections this week.

While previous presidents have been educated in colleges, Mr Chowen is the first to stand without having attended university, instead relying on his work representing FE students as vice-president over the last two years.

Despite FE students making up two-thirds of the membership of the NUS, it has traditionally been dominated by university students. In the final round of voting Liam Burns, current president of NUS Scotland, won with just over 60 per cent of the vote of delegates at the conference.

The gap between the front-runners had been narrower until the final round, when 110 votes for Mark Bergfeld, a candidate for the Socialist Workers Party who was prominent in last year's student protests, transferred to Mr Burns.

A former City College Plymouth student, who left with four A-levels, Mr Chowen had won respect from many in FE for his campaigning, particularly on the abolition of the education maintenance allowance.

But he was seen by some within the NUS as too close to outgoing president Aaron Porter, who faced calls to take a tougher position on university fees. At a rally in Manchester which preceded the president's decision to stand down, Mr Chowen had to dodge eggs as he gave a speech in Mr Porter's place.

But Usman Ali, a candidate for vice-president for HE and a declared supporter of Mr Chowen, praised him for transforming the status of FE within the NUS. Mr Ali wrote: "His talent is to be admired and what he has achieved not just externally, but internally is what has impressed me the most. He changed the culture of how the NUS as an organisation views FE and smaller institutions."

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