Row over new role for uni Professor

UNIVERSITY of Bedfordshire vice chancellor Professor Les Ebdon found himself at the centre of an apparent political row after MPs rejected his selection as director of the Office for Fair Access.

MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee published a report which failed to back Professor Ebdon’s appointment to the role, despite the endorsement of business secretary Vince Cable and universities and science minister David Willetts MP.

The pair can still insist that Professor Ebdon is given the role, and Mr Cable is reportedly still of the view that he is the right candidate for the job, but Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are said to have waded in on the argument.

MPs on the BIS select committee said that they “struggled to get a clear picture of professor Ebdon’s strategy for the future of Offa” and that they were “not convinced” by his “descriptions of the root causes of the obstacles to accessing universities.”

OFFA is an independent public body aimed at safeguarding and promoting fair access to higher education by approving and monitoring ‘access agreements’ for universities and colleges that want to charge higher tuition fees.

Mr Ebdon was questioned by the panel at a pre-appointment hearing last week and said that he would be prepared to use financial sanctions against universitites which failed to reach access targets.

In a statement released yesterday, Professor Ebdon said: “I am still very interested in becoming the next Director of OFFA.

“I know that the Secretary of State is considering the report of the Select Committee and I am awaiting his decision.”

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