Student leaders have elected the first ever president of their union not to have been to university.
Toni Pearce, who studied for A-levels at Cornwall further education college, won an overwhelming victory in the battle for the top job at the National Union of Students’ conference in Sheffield.
Ms Pearce, who is currently vice- president for further education of the union, won on a ticket of ending any divide between university and further education students or those on academic and vocational courses,
She added that “instead of coming out against things” it was time to speak up for something.
More than 450 student unions affiliated to the NUS are in further education college and most of the students it represents come from a further education background.
In her victory speech to the conference, she said: “I’m really proud to have been given the opportunity to build the student movement around a vision for public education and to be leading NUS as we build towards the next general election.
“Between now and 2015 we need to hold a full and frank debate about what education means to society and to properly articulate the public value of education in communities up and down the country.”
Ms Pearce won 424 of the 732 valid votes cast at the conference - beating two other candidates, NUS vice-president for union development Vicki Baars and Peter Smallwood, vice-president for academic representation at the Union of Brunel Students.