Anyone who has been to university will probably have donated money towards the football team’s charity strip or made jelly shots with cheap vodka from Lidl. But university isn’t all about ten drinks for a fiver at the student union.
Tuition fees and student riots have saturated the press in recent months. With demonstrators accusing the Coalition Government of failing to meet the needs of young Britons and marketising the education system, Aaron Porter’s role as President of the National Union of Students will have been a testing time. But throughout the marches and heated debate, Porter has stood strong and reminded us that this is also an exciting and proud moment, for there has been a rise in activism, radicalism and a passion for education. Porter has worked day and night in his role but after a disappointing yet momentous year, he made the decision yesterday to stand down as NUS President.
We at So So Gay wish him good luck in his next role, and we’re grateful for his taking the time to speak with us.
SSG: How did you become the NUS President ?
Aaron Porter: First of all by getting involved in my Students’ Union at the University of Leicester through sports, societies and as editor of the student newspaper. I was then President of the Students’ Union, before going on to the NUS as Vice-President (Higher Education) and then elected as President.
What’s the best part of your job?
Definitely the chance to make a positive difference to improve the lives of students. Education is such a powerful and important thing, and the NUS is here on the side of students.
What’s the worst part of your job?
Facing up to some terrible decisions the Government has taken, whether it’s to treble tuition fees, scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance, abolish AimHigher or scrap the Future Jobs Fund, it’s been a bad time to be fighting for student rights.
What’s the next step, and where would you like to take it?
It’s a pretty demanding role, and pretty non-stop, so I’m pretty much focused on the job right now. I’d like to either go into education or campaigning more generally beyond the NUS.
Do you think that being gay affects your role?
Not particularly. The NUS is an incredibly open-minded organisation with a super LGBT campaign. Colleges and university can be an incredibly important time for lots of LGBT people – many students come out and for others it is about experiencing life away from home for the first time – and I’m conscious that colleges, universities, LGBT societies and students’ unions all have important roles to play.
What’s your idea of a perfect night in or out?
As my job takes me round the UK, often to four or five different colleges or universities every week, the chance to have a quiet night in is what I treasure more than anything right now. So for me, it would probably be a good dinner, great company and a few bottles of wine.
When did you know you were gay?
I was about 13.
When did it start getting better?
I’m not sure I’d look at it like that: I won’t ever consider it as bad!
Who are your heroes, and who do you look up to?
As a Crystal Palace supporter, I’m a big fan of our previous manager Steve Coppell. I also can’t help but admire what Sir Alex Ferguson has done at Manchester United.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Don’t take for granted the opportunities you get!