Independently stealthy

April 14, 2011

We must thank Thomas Docherty for reminding us just how ignorant ministers are about the powers of the Office for Fair Access ("Rethink funding 'mess' to achieve democratic and wide participation," 31 March) and for rightly pointing out some of the anomalies that might accrue if Offa does actually withdraw institutions' right to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year.

However, he seems to have gone along with the belief that the new Offa guidelines are more demanding of institutions because they are presented with an indicative table of charges. This was the line taken by Simon Hughes, the Advocate for Access to Education, in a recent speech designed to show that Sir Martin Harris had kowtowed to the government's agenda.

In fact, a close reading of the old and new guidelines shows that the parameters of additional fee income to be spent on access are very similar to the loose framework suggested in the original guidance and that while institutions wishing to "charge fees towards the top end" have for the first time prescribed proportions to spend, they are told only that they "might choose to spend" up to those proportions.

Sir Martin's careful language might have fooled ministers and their advocate lackey, but he has in fact retained Offa's integrity and independence and struck a blow for university autonomy to boot.

Colin McCaig, Sheffield Hallam University

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns