Conflict of interest? Moi?
Sir Hartley Grossman, the Managing Director of Poppleton Pork Products and Chair of the University of Poppleton’s Board of Governors, has told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he is “over the moon” to learn that Sir Michael Barber has been appointed chair of the Office for Students, the new regulatory body for higher education.
But, wondered Ponting, did Sir Hartley recognise that there was some concern that Sir Michael was currently the chief education adviser at Pearson, the world’s largest private, for-profit education firm? And might he also want to take into account that it was Pearson that provided the Higher National courses that were used by private, for-profit colleges when they mounted their explosive growth in numbers of students with public loan funding, a development heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office?
“Quite honestly,” said Sir Hartley, “I think your remarks are inappropriate. Sir Michael’s heavy involvement with the private, for‑profit sector might indeed be a matter for some mild concern if Sir Michael had not already addressed the issue with what can only be described as commendable frankness.”
But how exactly had Sir Michael addressed the issue, wondered Ponting?
“In the most honest and straightforward manner,” said Sir Hartley. “Sir Michael not only announced that he would be giving up his Pearson job just before taking up the chair of the Office for Students, but he also announced that he would be leaving Pearson ‘cleanly’, so that, in his reassuring words, ‘I don’t think there will be any conflict of interest.’
“You know,” said Sir Hartley, “that very much reminds me of the clean manner in which I abandoned my own involvement in white slave trading when I became chair of the Poppleton High School for Girls.”
Conflict of interest? Moi?
“It will have absolutely no impact on the quality of education we provide for our students.”
That was how Mrs Daisy Tomelty, vice-chancellor of the private, for-profit Poppleton College of Tap Dancing, which was recently granted university status by the minister for universities, Jo Johnson, sought to reassure those who had raised concerns about the recent news that her own university, previously owned by Rachman Property Management, had recently been sold to a well-known retail chain.
Mrs Tomelty insisted that such changes of ownership in the private, for-profit higher education sector showed that the sector was “in rude health”. “Anyone who doubts the high value placed upon higher education only needs to consider the recent sale of the parent company of the UK private, for-profit BPP University to a private equity consortium for £899 million. Would anyone seriously suggest that a private equity consortium had any other interest in mind than ensuring the continuity of the higher education experience?”
However, Mrs Tomelty’s assurances about the maintenance of quality might appear to be at odds with the recent announcement by her own university that following its recent acquisition by Poundland, it would, “for a limited period only”, be offering a job lot of MA degrees for 99p.