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Marsden: Office for Students' board is a 'missed opportunity’ for FE

Board of new regulatory body doesn't represent the diversity of provision – including colleges, says shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden

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Board of new regulatory body doesn't represent the diversity of provision – including colleges, says shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden

Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden has hit out at the government’s decision not to appoint a representative of the FE sector to the board of the new Office for Students (OfS).

The government announced the final six new members of the 15-strong board yesterday – including the controversial director of the New Schools Network, Toby Young, and Simon Levine, managing partner and global co-chief executive officer of law firm DLA Piper.

The OfS, the new regulator designed to champion the interests of students, legally came into force yesterday.

According to the government, it will replace the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) as the main regulator of higher education, and it will hold universities to account for the quality of teaching they provide. It will also have a legal duty to promote choice and consider the interests of students, employers and taxpayers.

Education secretary Justine Greening said the OfS will play a vital role in ensuring UK universities retain their world-class reputation. “I welcome the new OfS board members to their important new roles. Their experience and skill will be key in ensuring the OfS achieves its ambitions,” she added.

'One in 10 studies HE in an FE environment'

OfS chair Sir Michael Barber said he was “delighted to be welcoming another outstanding set of appointments”. “The new board members' broad mix of skills and experiences complement those already appointed. I am confident that the OfS has a board in place that is well-placed to successfully oversee the creation and guide the operation of a new organisation which will be shaping our brilliant higher education sector in the interests of students, short, medium and long term," he added. 

But shadow minister Gordon Marsden said with the OfS being a “brand new organisation”, the government now had an opportunity to set the tone of what it wants it to be. “When we went over it in Parliament, we stressed the need for the board to be as broad as the student body in HE – and, as I never stop reminding ministers, one in 10 study HE in an FE environment. So this is a huge missed opportunity to put all this into practice. Justine Greening said the board reflected the diversity of the HE sector, but that cannot be said at all,” he added.

The final six new board members:

  • Simon Levine, managing partner and global co-chief executive officer of DLA Piper. 
  • Toby Young, co-founder of the West London Free School, and director the New Schools Network.
  • Elizabeth Fagan, senior vice president and managing director of Boots. 
  • Katja Hall, partner at Chairman Mentors International
  • Monisha Shah, chair of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance
  • Ruth Carlson, student at Surrey University

 

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