YUSU Presidents: past and present

We catch up with YUSU Presidents from years gone by

It was a closely fought victory for Millie Beach, the University of York’s new Students’ Union President. In a vote that went right to the wire, Millie emerged victorious and takes her place for 2016/2017 as the 54th President in the University of York’s history, and the first female President of the Students’ Union since 2007.

Millie takes over from outgoing President Ben Leatham, and based her campaign around communication, representation and support. Using her experience as Vanbrugh Chair to strengthen her manifesto, she said: “I was passionate about representing what students wanted, and because of this I know what YUSU needs to change. I want to represent your views and celebrate the amazing things we achieve at York.”


With pledges including creating a #LoveYork social media platform to consolidate information from societies, YUSU, individuals and the University, Millie is full of 21st century plans for the Students’ Union.

The President of the Students’ Union is arguably more important than ever, in a dynamic media landscape with more ways than ever before to quickly and easily communicate with the students and other stakeholders in the University of York.


Collaborating with student groups, holding community events, supporting officers, societies, volunteering groups, facilitating international students’ welcome, creating work experience opportunities at the Union… the responsibilities are many
and varied in 2016.

But what about our early Presidents of the Students’ Union? How did they shape York? How has the position changed? What were their manifesto promises back in the day?


Millie is the first female President since Anne-Marie Canning (English and Related Literatures, James, 2007) was elected in 2006. Anne Marie said of her time in office: “I wanted to do a good job of both constructively engaging with the University whilst keeping student campaigning at the heart of the Union. It’s a really challenging year and a bootcamp in leadership – like five years of experience condensed into 12 months. I can’t think of any other role where you have such a wide range of responsibilities and interactions at such a young age.”

And her advice for Millie? “Listen to diverse student voices, turn up to committees and don’t lose the fire in your belly!” Anne Marie is now Director of Widening Participation at King’s College, London.

In 2009, Tim Ngwena (Management, James, 2009) was elected President. His USP was “being an outsider to the establishment. I hadn’t been directly involved with student politics and approached the role from a society base. I thoroughly valued the opportunity I was given to represent students both on and off campus.”

bb0b063e4194-IMG_9633Tim’s proudest achievement during his time as President was leading students on the march against tuition fees. Over 350 students on 11 coaches travelled to London and represented the University in one of the biggest marches the Union has seen in recent times. Tim believes his experience has been invaluable when it comes to his career as a Business Technology and Integration Consultant: “I learned a lot about myself as an individual and also discovered the limits to my strengths and weaknesses. Doing this incredibly early in my adult life set me up well for my career.”

His advice for the new President: “If you’re not making anyone unhappy then you’re probably not pushing the boundaries far enough. And don’t just represent the students who vote you in, represent the views of students yet to join and those who came before you. You’ll find this gives you a more rounded view of the landscape and the decisions you need to make.”


David Mahony (Economics, Derwent, 1968) was elected President in 1966, he said; “at that time the entire undergraduate population was around 600 and 300 of those had just arrived.” This meant little campaigning was necessary, in stark contrast to the battles on the voting floor today.  David saw being President of the Students’ Union as “a chance to present thoughts, mine and those of others – on how the infant University should develop.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 10.59.28Two years later in 1968, David Gray (Mathematics, Alcuin, 1969) was elected President. “I found myself as President almost by accident. The previous incumbent had resigned and no-one was coming forward to take his place. I wanted to bring back a bit of stability to what was an organisation in some turmoil.”

Now retired, David’s last role was President and CEO of a small reinsurance company based in Barbados. Addressing the new President, he said: “The organisation is much larger and more complex than it was in my day. I wish her the best of luck and to enjoy the experience.”

Fast forward almost a decade and 1973’s President was Mike Mosley (Politics, Alcuin, 1973). He said; “being President meant a lot to me as I was interested in student politics and wanted to stay at York another year.” Mike was President during a year that saw a lot of student action at the University of York, as well as its first Rag Week and the opening of the SU’s first supermarket. “My biggest achievement was probably helping to shake up a complacent university establishment.”

Now retired, Mike offered this advice to Millie: “Stick to your principles, set yourself three major goals for your term of office. One year passes fast, so you have to be focused on what you want to achieve, be open and honest, and remember that democratic power resides with the students.”