Dividing chaos by two

January 5, 2012

"One quango to rule them all?" (22/29 December) set out many of the difficulties with the government's proposal to make the Higher Education Funding Council for England a "super-regulator". The conflict between funding and regulatory roles, and the potential threat to academic autonomy, is the most obvious. Another is that we shall be left with a plethora of funding and regulatory bodies.

The solution is to separate the two roles. The funding role of Hefce should be combined with the Student Loans Company so that all public funding flows through one channel, and the new agency should continue to report to ministers. A separate agency - which could be called Ofhe were it not for the somewhat dubious reputation Ofsted enjoys - should combine the regulatory functions of Hefce, the Quality Assurance Agency, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, the Office for Fair Access and Ofsted and the Training and Development Agency. Its job should be to report on the sufficiency and use of funds for maintaining academic and service standards, and it should be independent of government and report to a parliamentary committee as the comptroller and auditor general does now.

We run the risk of increased government control without any compensating benefits in terms of regulatory savings. There is a perfectly feasible alternative.

Roger Brown, Liverpool Hope University

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