The current anti tuition fees campaign has been noticeable for how removed it has been from the NUS, which has considerable resources. Many of the most radical students (surely the only way to be as a student?) feel that education should be free. This of course is not the NUS position. The NUS, meanwhile, has spent most of its time beating Lib Dems over the head about their pledges to not raise fees. I am not happy about the coalitions deal on tuition fees but I recognise that Vince Cable and others have won compromises to make it as progressive as it can be.
The NUS meanwhile was emailling the government (see here)arguing that it should not raise the cap on tuition fees but instead raise interest rates on loans, which would hit all, and reduce grants for poorer students. Instead their solution would have actually been more regressive than the current package. Potentially Lib Dem ministers could have honoured their pledge to not raise fees but would have definitely failed in the second part, which was to increase fairness. As a Lib Dem helping people from poorer backgrounds go to uni is probably the most important thing. This package, which isn't ideal, achieves this more than Labours Graduate Tax or even the NUS proposals.
At the end of the day the NUS leadership has no credibility. After my trip to the NUS conference all those years ago, I was so disgusted by the excess and venality of the NUS I joined a doomed campaign to disaffiliate the Newcastle Students Union from NUS. I think students may need to consider whether there is much point to an NUS that promotes an even worse deal than the governments.