Lord Wharton was the Chairman of Hume Brophy UK Communications until November 2020.
He served as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development from July 2016 to June 2017 and served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, with responsibility for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse from May 2015 until July 2016. Prior to that he worked as a solicitor.
He was awarded a life peerage to the House of Lords in September 2020.
Lord Wharton’s CV has been attached as part of the covering email accompanying this document for your reference. His declaration of interests and political activity are set out in Annex B
As the Committee will be aware, the Office for Students is the independent regulator of higher education in England, and) has a critical role to play in delivering government’s vision for higher education. The OfS aims to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
The Office for Students will play a pivotal role in delivering government’s manifesto commitment to tackle the problem of low-quality courses, to drive a stronger alignment of the courses delivered with the economic and societal needs of the nation, in a way that ensures all graduates benefit from their studies.
The Chair of the Office for Students brings leadership and influence to the OfS at board level, working with Ministers and the Chief Executive to provide clear strategic direction and priorities for OfS. The vacancy description sets of the role of the Chair of the OfS in more detail:
As the Committee will be aware, the Office for Students was created by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.
Schedule 1 of that Act sets out the requirements in relation to the appointment of the Board of the OfS, including the Chair, and the relevant provisions are as follows:
2(1) The OfS is to consist of the following members appointed by the Secretary of State—
(a) a chair (“the chair”)
(2) The Secretary of State must, in appointing the chair and the ordinary members, have regard to the desirability of the OfS’s members (between them) having experience of—
(a) representing or promoting the interests of individual students, or students generally, on higher education courses provided by higher education providers,
(b) providing higher education on behalf of an English higher education provider or being responsible for the provision of higher education by such a provider,
(c) employing graduates of higher education courses provided by higher education providers covering a range of academic and practical disciplines,
(d) promoting choice for consumers or other service users, and encouraging competition, in industry or another sector of society,
(e) creating, reviewing, implementing or managing a regulatory system in industry or another sector of society,
(f) managing or auditing the financial affairs of an organisation, and
(g) a broad range of the different types of English higher education providers.
(3) But at least one of the ordinary members must have experience of representing or promoting the interests of individual students, or students generally, on higher education courses provided by higher education providers.
The person specification in the advertisement for this role set out the essential and desirable criteria which candidates were expected to demonstrate:
Terms Dates (length of tenure): 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2025
Remuneration: £59,000 per annum
Time Commitment: Approximately 2 days per week
Campaign launch date
26 August 2020
Campaign closing date
22 September 2020
Number of applicants
Number of candidates invited to interview
Number of candidates found appointable
The post was also advertised in the Times from 9 September to 22 September 2020 as well as being promoted through social media.
More specifically, as part of the advertisement process, the vacancy was shared and highlighted with a range of BAME networks as well as being promoted via LinkedIn and Twitter to BAME networks and communities. We also approached a range of high-profile individuals from the BAME community who agreed to promote it within their own networks and contacts.
As outlined in the Governance Code for Public Appointments, the purpose of the Advisory Assessment Panel is to assist the Secretary of State in his decision-making for the role of the next Chair for the Office for Students.
The panel comprised of:
A total of 22 applications were received when the competition closed.
The panel met to sift the applications and assessed six candidates to have met the standard set by the panel and demonstrated evidence of the essential criteria. The panel recommended to the Secretary of State that all six candidates who met the standard should be invited to interview.
The Secretary of State confirmed that he wished the panel to interview all six candidates.
As part of the interview, candidates were asked to give a short 5-minute presentation on the topic of “What they see as the challenges facing the Office for Students and what their priorities would be for taking the organisation forward”. No slides were required, given the virtual nature of the interview.
The remainder of the interview related to questions of the candidates experience and strengths, based on essential and desirable criteria. Each candidate was assessed against each criterion. The panel then agreed the final scores for each candidate and four candidates were determined to have met the standard required to be appointable.
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. This has been approved by the Prime Minister and the Education Select Committee have been invited to hold a pre-appointment hearing with Lord Wharton and to report on their conclusions.
Note on diversity data: No diversity data is provided on applicants, as we have followed ONS guidance on statistical disclosure control. The ONS advise that, if there are fewer than 5 candidates in any given diversity data category (for example if you have six women and four men on a shortlist) you should not share any diversity data for that category.
The full candidate pack was sent to you with the covering email to this pack but for ease of reference the vacancy description and person specification are set out below:
The successful candidate must be able to demonstrate the following essential criteria:
(1) Excellent strategic thinking capability, experience of setting a clear vision and demonstrating strategic leadership in a range of contexts and complex environments.
(2) A strong communicator with outstanding ability to influence and build effective relationships with stakeholders across the public, private or voluntary sectors, including the ability to communicate effectively with ministers.
(3) Experience and a sound understanding of board management and commitment to the principles of public life.
(4) Commitment to the principles of levelling up, championing opportunity for all, and representing or advocating for disadvantaged regions in the UK.
(1) 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.
(1) No Declared Conflict of Interest on his application form
(2) Political Activity: Lord Wharton made the following declaration as part of his application:
Have you undertaken any political activity for a political party in the past five years? Please tick:
☐ No ☒Yes (please state for what party and specific what activity)
Party name: Conservative Party
☒ Held office
☒ Public speaking
☒ Stood for election
☒ Made donations to a party
☒ Any other political activity:
“I was a Conservative MP until 2017, have remained a party member since then and have recently been appointed a Conservative member of the House of Lords.”
(3) Other declared interests as a member of the House of Lords:
Director, GBMW Ltd (member’s company providing strategic and management advice, and running his private office) (member draws ad hoc dividends); current clients are Aquind Ltd (electricity transmission), Squire Patton Boggs LLP (law firm), Policy Exchange Ltd (think tank), Hume Brophy (communications), Inmarsat (telecommunications) and IX Wireless Limited (telecommunications infrastructure provider)
Person with significant control of a company (PSC):
Non-financial interests (a):