Offensive characterisation

March 15, 2012

The characterisation by Ruth Deech of the Office for Fair Access' collaborative work with universities, which encourages them to maximise their range of qualified applicants (and therefore entrants), as somehow equivalent to Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish quotas is offensive in the extreme ("Social mobility, yes. Outreach efforts, yes. Quotas, absolutely not", 8 March).

Offa does not impose admissions quotas on universities: it would, rightly, be illegal for us or anyone else to do so. As a condition of charging higher fees, universities set their own targets to improve access according to their own circumstances and aims. This is not only a laudable goal, it is also entirely lawful.

I have never sought to undermine the principle of university autonomy, a principle to which I have been wedded throughout my career. In any event, Offa's commitment to autonomy, like its role as an independent regulator, is enshrined in the 2004 Higher Education Act and has always been respected by ministers of all parties.

Sir Martin Harris, Director of fair access

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