Shakira Martin (NUS president)

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Shakira Martin
Martin addressing the 2017 NUS National Conference in Brighton.
59th President of the National Union of Students
In office
3 July 2017 – 3 July 2019
Preceded byMalia Bouattia
Succeeded byZamzam Ibrahim
Majority130 (18.1%)[1]
Vice President for Further Education
In office
23 April 2015 – 3 July 2017
Preceded byJoe Vinson
Succeeded byEmily Chapman
Personal details
Born1988 (age 31–32)
Alma materLewisham and Southwark College

Shakira Martin (born 1988) is a British student politician and former president of the National Union of Students.[2]

In April 2017, Martin, the union's vice-president for further education, defeated the incumbent Malia Bouattia, receiving 56% of the vote.[2] After widespread discontentment with Bouattia's leadership of the NUS, Martin pledged "unity", "pragmatism", and to put the "NUS back into the hands of its membership".[3] She describes herself as a black working-class single mother, and comes from a Jamaican family background.[2] She was the first woman from the African-Caribbean community to serve as NUS President, and the second to have not studied at university.[4]

In March 2018, Martin was re-elected to a second term with 51% of the vote in the first round.[5][6]

Early life and career

Early life

Martin was one of nine siblings raised in Lewisham, south-east London, by Jamaican parents.[7] She left home at 16 and admits to having been involved in drug dealing for a month when she was in need of money. She then had two children, before gaining a diploma in education and training from Lewisham and Southwark College, becoming President of the College Students' Union.[2][8]

NUS Vice-President Further Education

At the NUS 2015 National Conference in Liverpool, Martin was elected as NUS' Vice President for Further Education by 141 votes to 55, following Joe Vinson.[8] In the position, she led a campaign to raise the profile of the impact of government post-16 area reviews[9] on learners, and was a "strong advocate for the learner and apprentice voice".[10][8]

Martin was then re-elected for another term in April 2016; she was uncontested for the post and won at stage one, with 152 votes compared to 11 votes to re-open nominations.[8] She expanded the previous campaign, and worked on a research project with former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sir Vince Cable into how major FE reforms should be tailored for learners.[11] The report was published in Autumn 2017.[11]

Presidency of NUS

In April 2017, after widespread discontentment with NUS under the leadership of Malia Bouattia, Martin stood for the position of President, pledging "unity", "pragmatism", and to put "NUS back into the hands of its membership".[3] She defeated the incumbent, receiving 56% of the vote.[2] Martin took office in July 2017; she met with the Union of Jewish Students to "build back trust" and "start taking seriously the concerns Jewish students have raised".[12]

Martin's key initiative was to launch a commission into addressing student poverty, which made 40 recommendations and was positively received by Universities UK and the University Alliance.[13][14][15][16] In March 2018, Martin was re-elected to a second term with 51% of the vote in the first round of voting, along with deputy Amatey Doku;[5][6] the latter received 68% after calling for nationwide student-led mobilization to demand a 'people’s vote' on the final Brexit deal. Martin reaffirmed her commitment to 'fight student poverty, defend student rights [and] create a truly united NUS', reaching out to welcome 'Tories' and 'Lib Dems' within the union.[6][17]

Her second term was dominated by tackling NUS's financial situation, as the organisation faced bankruptcy over a £3m deficit.[18] Martin wrote to members that the union would be "taking urgent action to stabilise", with reforms being developed for "consideration and refinement with the help of our members". Martin faced criticism for developing a drastic programme of financial, governance and campaigning reforms for approval by the union's National Conference; amidst this, she described the President role as an "awful job" on social media.[19] After around five hours of debate at the conference, 700 delegates voted in favour of the package.[20] Martin welcomed the vote, calling it a "momentous decision to endorse reform and deliver the vision of members".

Martin was succeeded by Zamzam Ibrahim in July 2019.


  1. ^ "Shakira Martin elected NUS National President 2017-18". NUS. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Topping, Alexandra; Marsh, Sarah (26 April 2017). "Divisive NUS president Malia Bouattia defeated in election". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b Pells, Rachel (26 April 2017). "Further education underdog Shakira Martin wins NUS presidency". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  4. ^ Weale, Sally (11 September 2017). "NUS president Shakira Martin: 'This goes way beyond tuition fees. We are talking about class'". Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b Bothwell, Ellie (28 March 2018). "Shakira Martin re-elected as National Union of Students president". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Weale, Sally (28 March 2018). "Shakira Martin easily holds on to leadership of students union". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  7. ^ Wakefield, Lawrence (27 August 2015). "Student leader with a swagger". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Burke, Jude (26 April 2017). "FE champion Shakira Martin elected NUS president". FE Week. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Reviewing post-16 education and training institutions: area reviews (waves 1 to 5)", Department for Education. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  10. ^ Robertson, Alix (20 April 2016). "Shakira Martin re-elected as NUS vice president for FE". FE Week. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  11. ^ a b Robertson, Alix (7 March 2017). "FE champion Shakira Martin standing for NUS president". FE Week. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  12. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (10 August 2017). "NUS seeks to mend relations with Jewish students". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  13. ^ Martin, Will (30 August 2017). "'Massive' student poverty commission launched by NUS". TES. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  14. ^ Hillman, Nick (26 March 2018). "Is the voice of students' unions too powerful?". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Class dismissed: Getting in and getting on in further and higher education @ NUS Connect".
  16. ^ Morgan, John (23 April 2018). "NUS calls for 'minimum living income' for post-16 students". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  17. ^ Sanderson, Daniel (31 March 2018). "Student chief Shakira Martin reaches out to Tories after defeating left". The Times. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  18. ^ Adams, Richard (2 November 2018). "National Union of Students faces bankruptcy over £3m deficit". the Guardian.
  19. ^ "National Union of Students president tells critics to 'f*** off' amid no confidence motions". The Independent. 21 February 2019.
  20. ^ Weale, Sally (10 April 2019). "NUS approves measures to plug £3.6m deficit". the Guardian.

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