Uni boss is still waiting for OFFA

UNIVERSITY of Bedfordshire vice chancellor Professor Les Ebdon could still be appointed as the government’s new university admissions tsar next week despite a fierce row over his suitability for the role.

Our sister paper, the Herald & Post, reported last week how Professor Ebdon (pictured right) found himself at the centre of a political dispute after MPs on the Business Innovation and Skills select committee refused to endorse his appointment as director of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

And despite Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg wading in on the argument last week, it would appear that the pair are powerless to stop business secretary Vince Cable from appointing his preferred candidate.

The Conservative party’s fair access to universities group had been said to be upping their opposition to Professor Ebdon’s appointment to the role with plans to publish a report this week highlighting his unsuitability for the position.

But Mr Cameron is said to have been forced to step aside from vetoing the appointment as the final say falls under the remit of Mr Cable.

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

When questioned by the select committee earlier this month, Professor Ebdon said that he would not be afraid to use the “nuclear option” of hitting institutions with financial penalties if they failed to reach access targets.

But his plans prompted fears that some of the more esteemed academic institutions might lower entry standards in order to meet those targets.

In a statement released last week 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.”