Outgoing NUS president Aaron Porter has this afternoon apologised for ‘tactical’ mistakes over the last year. Aaron, who was giving the opening speech at this year’s NUS conference in Newcastle, admitted that there hadn’t been a serious strategy for what the student movement would do after the 10th of November demonstration.

He did, however, offer a full throated defense of NUS’ policy position, calling on students not to support free education at this week’s conference. In his speech, to roughly 1000 delegates, Porter passionately defended the idea of a student contribution to the cost of Higher Education, arguing that no major political party at Westminster is in favour of free higher education, and claiming that investment in Sure Start centres is more important.

However, it was his apology for mistakes over the last year that received the warmest applause. While highlighting his success at uniting the student movement in the months before the national demonstration, he admitted that there hadn’t been enough consderation of tactics after this point, “I hold my hands up” he said, accepting blame for this. “While there is no place for violence against people or against property unless you are defending democracy itself” Porter said “there is a place for peaceful occupations” – highlighting such protests both on campuses, and at Fortnum & Mason’s.

He then explained that he believed his continuation as president would, he believed, have led to a split student movement, and discussion of his role in this tactical debate: “we must have this tactical debate, but not mid-battle”

we’ll have the full text of the speech soon.