Can the government’s new ‘axe-man’ really pretend to run an independent inquiry into fees?

Former BP boss Lord Browne has been parachuted into government as the ‘lead non-executive director’. He has been asked to use his experience to help’make Whitehall work in a more businesslike manner’. Rather worryingly he apparently represents a foretaste of things to come, as he will come to ‘oversee a string of senior business figures who will be made non-executive directors on the board of every Whitehall department’ which suggests that Conservative rhetoric about the ‘post-bureaucratic’ era notwithstanding the technocratic tendencies of British governance are alive and well.

However from the standpoint of British academia the more pressing question is where this appointment leaves the independence of his inquiry into university fees.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, released the following statement:

“I am very concerned that Lord Browne has accepted this position. The independence of the fees review from government is paramount and the position of its chair integral to that. Accepting a job from David Cameron, a man who made it quite clear during the election campaign that he wanted university fees to stay, clearly brings the legitimacy of the review’s independence into question.

In the interest of this review retaining any legitimacy he should resign. We would also call for the whole objectives of the review to be revisited and for it to focus on ensuring students are able to fulfill their potential. We see no reason why people should be left behind because of cost.”


Categories: Higher Education

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