How do you think that challenges have changed for students and for the NUS in the three decades since you were the president?
Starting with students, let me be honest and say that it is not something I follow that closely. A lot of my experience is partly through what I do here at the commission and to some extent through my own family.
I think that life changed in probably three ways. One, I think, and this is something everybody says, being a student is not quite the happy-go-lucky experience I think it was in the 1960s or even in the early 1970s.
I think that students today are very much more conscious of the purpose of it, preparing for the labour market, competing for jobs and so on and so forth. I think that was always part of it but in the days when I was a student there was pretty much certainty that if you had a degree you would get something to do. I don't think students today have that certainty.
Secondly, I think that the actual cost of being a student is of a different kind. I know it is perhaps not a hugely popular thing to say in student circles but I don't myself think the big problem so much is tuition fees. I think the problem is living costs.
The cost of accommodation, the cost of actually being a student is much, much higher - accommodation is much less subsidised. So I think getting through the three or four years itself is pretty tough.
On the upside, the thing I think has changed for students is, or my impression is, that actually students are much more sophisticated, much worldlier. I think we were a pretty naïve crew but if I talk to students now they know a lot more about the world, they are much more savvy, they are much more clued up and that I think is a good thing.
In so far as NUS is concerned, I think being the president of the National Union of Students is a much more difficult job. It is a business and that is quite tough. No doubts there are people; a general manager, chief executive and so on, and staff who have always been great at NUS handling things.
But there are some decisions only the president can make and you are making those decisions in your early or your mid 20s. They are big calls of a kind most people never have to make at any time in their life.
Even those who do have to make those kinds of big decisions are only senior enough to have to make them in their 40s. So I think that is a very, very tough situation for the presidents of the NUS.
For the national union itself, holding its end up and having a voice in the national conversation again is more difficult because there are more voices - there are more lobbyists and politics is more complicated. But you guys seem to have done pretty well.
I have the privilege of having met not the current president of NUS but pretty much all of the presidents since I left and without flattering people too much I just think NUS presidents, generally speaking, have got better over time. They are just smarter, weightier, top class. The one I knew best most recently, Wes Streeting is an absolutely outstanding guy.
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