Les Ebdon likely to be confirmed as head of OFFA next week
14 Feb 2012
Despite his rejection by the BIS Select Committee last week, it now looks very likely that Professor Les Ebdon will be confirmed as ministers' choice to head the Office for Fair Access after all. A decision is likely to be given to Parliament early next week now that Downing Street has confirmed that it does not have the power to block the appointment.
Its believed that the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, was determined that the appointment would go ahead and there is a strong feeling that the whole appointment process was played by the book and so it would be wrong for the choice of both the selection committee, and of ministers, to be blocked by a vote taken by just 4 out of 11 members of the parliamentary committee.
A close look at the questioning by those committee members who opposed Professor Ebdon suggests they had either been lobbied by some members of the Russell Group or that they felt they were operating on their behalf.
Meanwhile, while it now looks unlikely that a Higher Education Bill will appear this coming autumn, this does not mean that plans for legislation have been shelved. It seems ministers are relaxed about a delay, providing they can get Royal Assent to an HE Bill by the Spring of 2014. That way legislation would be in place for the start of the 2014-15 academic year, the first when virtually all undergraduates will be on the new tuition fee model.