Offa's 'nuclear option' is an illusory concept (2 of 2)

February 23, 2012

The vilification of Les Ebdon in some sections of the press, in opposition to his appointment as director of Offa, is ill-informed, completely unjustified and highly damaging to the causes of progressive higher education and the vital role of widening participation.

The post of Offa director requires someone of outstanding credibility in the sector, with the highest integrity and fairness, who can champion academic standards while being passionate about the value of modern higher education in transforming lives and society more generally. It needs someone with emotional strength, excellent communication skills and outstanding leadership; someone able to stand up for students and withstand political interference - after all, Offa is supposed to demonstrate independence and fairness.

Despite the various misplaced taunts, thankfully not by Times Higher Education, Ebdon has all these attributes. I have known him for nearly 40 years. His personal qualities, founded on high moral values, are of the highest order. He understands and has achieved a great deal in widening participation, and his appointment would demonstrate the seriousness with which the coalition government rightly takes widening participation. He would act in an independent, firm, but sensitive way, to the great benefit of students and the nation.

It is deeply regrettable that fellow vice-chancellors generally have not publicly given Ebdon's appointment vociferous support, and appalling that some from "highly selective" universities might actually have lobbied against it. These are leaders who are supposed to value fairness and to defend the political independence of the position.

Mike Goldstein, Streetly, West Midlands

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