Shakira Martin, who stepped down as NUS president on 30 June, has called for the education system to increase diversity through its lecturers and reading material.
Speaking to The Independent Martin called out the sector for being “institutionally racist” and urged them to hire more black lecturers and introduce more text by black writers.
“We need to recognise that our education system is institutionally racist by default. It wasn’t built for working-class or black people,” said 31-year-old.
“It was built for these stale, white, pale men to go in and get these top jobs and to go into politics and to become business leaders.”
Martin, who grew up in southeast London, told the publication that she has been the victim of classism and anti-blackness since taking on the role as president of the NUS.
“It has been really difficult being NUS president. I came into this environment with a working-class mindset not understanding how to follow policies and procedures,” the mother-of-two admitted.
Martin went on to discuss further education and how working class people have “been forgotten.”
“We have a government that do not understand further education. That is evident from the fact it has often been forgotten.
“We have a bunch of politicians who have gone to Oxbridge who are making policies [affecting] working-class people without knowing what it is really like.”
She added: “I am just a normal girl. People like me don’t get positions like this. I wanted to inspire other young, working-class, black women and my community to break the cycle of deprivation.
“No matter where you come from, you can still make something of yourself. I hope people have been able to see that during my presidency.”
Zamzam Ibrahim will take over as NUS president from July and will become the union’s third female Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) president in a row.