1.The Office for Students (OfS) was created under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. It has five strategic objectives: participation, experience, outcomes, value for money and to act as an efficient and effective regulator. The OfS’s duties are set out in Part 1 and Schedule 1 of the Higher Education Research Act 2017. Its duties include: protecting the autonomy of English higher education providers, promoting quality, choice and opportunities for students, encouraging competition where this is in the interests of students and employers, promoting value for money, and promoting equality of opportunity in connection with access to and participation in higher education.
2.The functions and powers of the OfS under the Act include: regulating English higher education providers through registration conditions, assessing the quality and standards of higher education, improving access and participation, providing funding to eligible providers, powers to award or revoke degree awarding powers and powers to require information from providers. The OfS has a number of powers to impose sanctions on higher education providers that breach their conditions of registration, including the power to impose a monetary penalty.
3.The Chair of the Office for Students is one of five positions subject to a pre-appointment hearing by the Education Select Committee (see appendix 1).
4.As part of their wider role in scrutinising Government, select committees scrutinise some senior public appointments made by Ministers. This is to help ensure that the candidate is suitable for the post.
5.On 17 December 2020, the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson CBE MP, wrote to us to say that Lord Wharton of Yarm had been chosen as the Government’s preferred candidate to take up the post of Chair of the Office for Students. The Committee was invited to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the candidate. The Secretary of State’s letter, the candidate’s curriculum vitae and a memorandum provided by the Government, which sets out the requirements of the post, along with details of the recruitment process, are all appended to this Report.
6.We accordingly invited Lord Wharton to attend a pre-appointment hearing on Tuesday 2 February 2021.
7.We would like to put on record our thanks to the outgoing Chair of the Office for Students, Sir Michael Barber, for the important work that he has done over the last four years.
1 Office for Students, , 30 April 2018