8.The recruitment campaign was launched on 26 August 2020 and closed on 22 September. 22 applications were received in response. Six candidates were invited to interview as they were deemed to have met the bar, of which four were found appointable.
Interviews were conducted by an Advisory Assessment Panel consisting of:
9.The outcomes of the interview stage were presented to the Secretary of State who named Lord Wharton of Yarm as his preferred candidate to be the next Chair of the Office for Students.
10.In August 2020, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Education about the appointment of the new Chair of the Office for Students, recommending that the following be added as essential criteria to the job description:
[…] we believe the post-holder must be able to demonstrate a commitment and understanding of the culture shift needed in our universities where there has to be a greater joining up of higher and further education, to deliver the high-skilled, high-paid jobs that the country needs. The post-holder must have proven experience of delivering such a step change and a passion around the provision and take up of degree apprenticeships in all our universities, so that students are equipped to succeed at work and go on to have successful careers.
We also urged the Department to advertise the post as widely as possible, to ensure that applicants were drawn from a diverse and high-calibre field. We asked the Department to outline what measures were being taken to encourage applicants of BAME backgrounds.
11.In his response to our letter, the Secretary of State outlined that the Department’s approach to the person specification for the Chair’s role:
has been to focus it on the ability and skills that someone would bring to the role, rather than requiring specific higher education experience which would significantly limit the number of suitable candidates.
12.The recruitment pack drawn up by the Department for Education set out four essential criteria that the successful candidate would need to be able to demonstrate. They were:
Candidates were also sought who were able to demonstrate the following desirable criterion:
Sound knowledge and understanding of the operation of regulatory activity, the strengths and limitations of regulators, and the implication of these matters to the higher education secretary. Ability and working understanding of financial management and the importance of securing value for money.
13.The appointment of Chair of Office for Students is for a period of four years. Renumeration for the post is £59,000 per annum, and the time commitment for the post was specified in the description as approximately 2 days per week.
2 See appendix 3
3 Letter from the Education Committee to the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education, , 7 August 2020
4 Letter from the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education, to the Chair of the Education Select Committee, , 25 August 2020