Expert Comment: MPs reject OFFA DirectorWednesday 25 April 2012
Professor Roger Brown, Co-Director for the Centre of Higher Education Research Development at Liverpool Hope University, on MPs rejection of Les Ebdon as Director of the Office For Fair Access.
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) was created by the last Labour government to get the top up fees through parliament. It was a political device to buy off the back benchers and as such it’s not really a serious operation. It doesn’t represent a serious policy to do anything about Widening Participation.
On that view, it doesn’t matter who is director of OFFA because their hands are tied by the government of the day. Neither the previous Labour government nor the present coalition have any serious intentions about Widening Participation.
However, OFFA does have a marginal ability to send signals about improving participation, so it’s important that whoever is in charge of it is sympathetic to Widening Participation and, in that respect, there couldn’t be a better person than Les Ebdon.
It’s obvious, given the people who have come out opposing this appointment, that they are opposing the government policy on HE rather than Les Ebdon. In my view, the government should stand its ground on this matter.