The wonderful world of the OfS
Last week’s analysis of the Office for Students, the government’s new regulatory body, prompted a great deal of excitement among regular readers. One such enthusiast was Ms Nancy Harbinger, our Deputy Head of Student Experience.
She wrote: “I wonder if readers of The Poppletonian have ever noticed that while the letters OfS stand for Office for Students, they also characterise the manner in which this new regulatory body for higher education has begun its work – OfS – Off to a Flying Start.”
We asked our reporter Keith Ponting (30) to discover whether Ms Harbinger was equally enthusiastic about all aspects of the OfS. Was she concerned by the manner in which the government and the OfS had handled the little matter of student representation on its board?
Ms Harbinger admitted that this was a contentious area. “You have to be very careful with students,” she warned. “It’s so very easy to get the wrong sort.”
“So having any students at all on the board of the Office for Students was a contentious matter?”
“Oh yes. And the government, to its credit, did its level best to handle such a tricky situation.”
“In what way?”
“It decided that there should be no students at all on the board of the Office for Students.”
“None at all?”
“That’s right. But then there was some whingeing from MPs who probably have never had to deal with troublesome students, and the government was forced to back down and make a real concession. It agreed that there should be one student representative on the board.”
“Quite a climbdown. And how did it go about choosing this single student?”
“It stuck to formal procedures. Applications were invited and duly received from 133 candidates.”
“And this number was whittled down?”
“Oh yes. After very careful consideration, the government eventually compiled a shortlist of six for interview.”
“And these were duly interviewed?”
“Yes, but after further very careful consideration, ministers decided that only three of the six candidates were what they described as ‘appointable’.”
“But at least that left three candidates in contention?”
“Not quite. The government then made another bold decision.”
“What was that?”
“The ministers promptly rejected all three of the candidates who had been previously been declared ‘appointable’ and chose someone else entirely.”
Did Ms Harbinger feel that there were any lessons that could be learned from this story?
“I feel that the whole procedure did much to confirm my own view that students with opinions of their own should be kept well away from any proper representation on a board that has been set up to serve their interests.”
Our reporter wondered if Ms Harbinger felt that the amount of time and attention that ministers had devoted to keeping unsuitable students off the board of the OfS had been equally evident when it came to determining the suitability of other members of the board.
Ms Harbinger said that she had no comment to make on this matter as she personally was unacquainted with Mr Toby Young.