Policing fees: Offa just doesn't have the staff

March 3, 2011

So ministers and their advisers misunderstood the law relating to the Office for Fair Access' powers to require universities to charge specific tuition-fee levels? ("You mean Offa is toothless? The reason for policy chaos", 24 February). One also wonders how they understood the force of "have regard to" in connection with Offa's duty to follow ministerial "guidance".

Ministers' powers to reroute public policy and insist on getting their own way will, alas, be greatly enhanced by forthcoming legislation. Faced with the labour of cleaning the Augean stables, Hercules changed the course of a couple of rivers to wash out the mess, although it was not one of his own making.

If, after universities put in their offers, the rules are changed and Offa is told to prescribe fees to match the conditions of those offers, a fair bit of policing will be required. Offa does not have the staff. How much is it going to cost to police this new regulatory regime? Another levy on the fees students will pay?

G.R. Evans, Chief executive, Improving Dispute Resolution Advisory Service.

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