Tuition fees were meant to pit teachers and learners against each other. Instead, they have bound them together in solidarity
The most interesting thing in a damning report often doesn’t end up as its talking point. Damnation is so fun, it’s hard to prioritise. So when the Commissioner for Public Appointments looked into the selection criteria for the board of the Office for Students, all the fireworks focused on Toby Young. Pugnacious in the noughties but curiously sensitive this decade, upset by mere mention of the anal sex jokes that only a short time ago were his stock in trade, Young was the beneficiary of a process that we could have all hazarded a guess at, but now have on paper: Jo Johnson, the universities minister, told him to apply. Justine Greening’s objections were overruled. The other candidates were discounted by a process with “serious shortcomings in fairness and transparency”. As if by magic, the least-suited person was suddenly the best imaginable, like Ivanka Trump in South Korea, or Tom Hanks in Big.
Less was said about the panel’s decision on its choice of a student representative: in the selection process, it explicitly excluded anyone who had been involved with the National Union of Students. Nothing about this blacklist appeared in the advert for candidates, of course, because it would have made them look crazy; what kind of Office for Students discounts anyone who has shown an interest in the collective lot of students? Yet secret criteria aren’t a great look, either, signifying something in the region of bottomless distrust of the student body.
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