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MINISTERS were under fire yesterday for appointing hard-right champion of free schools Toby Young to a new education watchdog.
The Office for Students (OfS) has a remit to hold universities to account. But a raft of new appointments yesterday included just one student and a host of business figures.
Education secretary Justine Greening said: “I welcome the new OfS board members to their important new roles. Their experience and skill will be key in ensuring the OfS achieves its ambitions.”
But University & College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “If this organisation was to have any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students’ interests.
“Instead we have this announcement sneaked out at new year with Tory cheerleader Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers and no proper representation from staff or students.”
Writer Mr Young, who co-founded the West London Free School and runs the New School Network, was an early champion of Michael Gove’s free-school scheme. This extension of the academies programme allows schools to be set up from scratch outside of council control.
Philosophy academic Amelia Horgan, who represents postgraduate students on the National Union of Students executive, questioned Mr Young’s suitability for the role.
“Toby Young is not just a professional buffoon but a Tory ideologue with a track record of zealous support for the marketisation of our education system,” she told the Star.
“His appointment shows that the government’s claims to be acting in students’ interests are a total joke.”
In his memoir The Sound of No Hands Clapping Mr Young recalled that he had been admitted to the University of Oxford “by mistake.”
Brasenose College had included him in a circular on practical arrangements for new students before subsequently informing him in a personalised letter that he had been rejected.
Mr Young’s father Michael Young, founder of the Open University and coiner of the term “meritocracy,” then phoned the admissions tutor to complain and was told the younger Young could attend after all.
The other new appointees are civil engineering student Ruth Carlson, Boots executive Elizabeth Fagan, law firm DLA Piper’s boss Simon Levine, former banker Katja Hall and Rose Bruford College chair Monisha Shah.
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