Chair of Office for Students challenged over lack of FE board members

MPs on the education select committee express their frustration that none of the 14 board members are from the FE sector

News article image

The chair of the new Office for Students (OfS) has been challenged about the lack of further education representation on its incoming board.

Sir Michael Barber has offered to send the education select committee a note regarding FE and apprenticeship representation on the board.

Labour MP Ian Mearns asked if a “couple of places” could be created for FE on the board of the OfS, adding: “FE is a large part of our educational sector and you have not even got one rep out of a board of 14.”

Halfon: Same odds as a 'lottery win'

Committee chair Robert Halfon said the lack of FE representation “seems exactly what is wrong with our country”, adding: “FE is so often not included in these types of bodies and yet play such an incredibly important role in terms of social disadvantage, in higher education – with degree apprenticeships, foundation degrees.

“I find it incredible that we might be lucky that there is an FE person who might be on the board – we might get lucky, if we win the lottery.”

Halfon asked why this was not thought about and queried why Sir Michael had not encouraged having one or two FE people on the board.

Sir Michael said that while he did not want to specify that the 15th member of the board should be dedicated to a specific sector, he “got the message very strongly”, adding: “We will see what happens with the applications.” 

Apprentices panel

He dismissed the idea that more places could be created because the legislation states the board must have 15 members, but said the board could explore having someone from FE as an observer.

Halfon also pointed out that a student panel was linked to the OfS and asked why an apprentice panel had not been created, so that degree apprentices were recognised.  

Sir Michael said he would send the committee a note outlining what the OfS thought about FE representation.

The final board member is expected to be appointed by the end of the summer.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes FE news on Twitter, like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you