Nice little Hefce earner; vim and rigour optional

March 31, 2011

If you are less than fully engaged with this magazine and are reading it only because you found it on a train, do not give up hope that you can bag yourself a £5,000-a-year sinecure on the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

An advertisement inviting applications for three new Hefce council members, posted online, states that an "interest in the development of the higher education sector" and the ability to "demonstrate a manager" were merely "desirable" characteristics for applicants.

The advertisement was prepared by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for making the appointments.

Successful candidates for the Hefce board posts will be paid an annual "honorarium" of £5,000, plus expenses, for a commitment of up to 20 days a year. This consists of attending six board meetings a year, plus "one or two conferences and other meetings". They will be "encouraged" to contribute to additional committees.

The advertisement describes higher education as a "national success story" that is "vital to our prosperity". It asks potential candidates whether they can help the sector to adapt to "a new approach" to funding.

"Universities and colleges are facing new opportunities and challenges, to which the council needs to respond imaginatively," it says.

It adds that it is essential for candidates to "bring strong intellectual capability and impartiality to...the government's priorities for the higher education sector". They should also be able to "analyse complex sensitive problems".

Candidates must have experience of strategic leadership, demonstrate "success in managing change in a growing business" and "understand financial and corpor-ate governance standards".

However, ability to demonstrate "integrity and imagination as a manager" is merely desirable.

A commentator from within the sector, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "If Vince Cable (the business secretary) thinks that integrity and an interest in the future of higher education are optional extras for members of the Hefce board, then we really do have to worry about what's going to be in the forthcoming White Paper."

The closing date for applications for the posts is 10 April.

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