In the news: 5 January

The unbelievable Toby Young appointment

The government sneaked out the names of members of the new Office for Students (OfS) board over New Year. The one that drew the most criticism was Tory cheerleader Toby Young. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said if the OfS was to have had any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students' interests. Not Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers.

It didn't take long for Young's offensive and juvenile tweets on an extraordinary range of subjects to be revealed. Women in particular were under attack in a string of puerile and objectifying tweets. The man-child also insulted disabled people, working class people, gay people, teachers and even flirted with eugenics.

While the academic community rejected his appointment, Labour called for him to be sacked and petitions were set up to have him removed from the board, foreign secretary and former colleague Boris Johnson defended Young and his "caustic wit". The 54-year-old Young described his comments as "sophomoric". He made them in his 40s.

 

Prime minister facing rebellion over international students stance

The prime minister is facing increased pressure to take international students out of immigration figures. Theresa May was already isolated on the issue with home secretary Amber Rudd and foreign secretary Boris Johnson among cabinet members who had previously called for them to be removed.

Last night the Guardian reported that Conservative MPs who head select committees were also prepared to defy the prime minister on the issue.

Politicians from all stripes have criticised the prime minister's position and this week it was revealed that the Immigration Bill due later this year would give critics an opportunity to force the first parliamentary vote on the issue since Mrs May lost her majority in the 2017 general election. 

Sally Hunt told the Evening Standard that removing international students from net migration figures would be an important step in ensuring the UK remains a welcoming option for students from around the world.

 

Vice-chancellors' defences of pay hikes taken to task

More questions have been asked about the reasoning behind vice-chancellors' handsome pay rises. The Times cast doubt on the oft-used claim that vice-chancellors operated in a global market and therefore needed to be handsomely rewarded when it found that four in five vice-chancellors were recruited from another UK university.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times revealed that some of the highest paid university vice-chancellors are in charge of the worst-performing institutions in the country. The paper created a "pay versus performance" indicator, which pegs a university's performance ranking against a league table of pay packets.

However, there were new year honours for some vice-chancellors and the Times scrutinised their performance and pay deals. The paper said that awards to university heads earning more than the prime minister would do little to quell the row over excessive pay. The paper also revealed that 15 of the 24 Russell Group universities had a knight or dame at the helm in the past five years.

While Times Higher Education had a rather different set of awards it handed out as part of Laurie Taylor's review of the year.

 

Private equity-backed for-profit colleges rake in more public cash than LSE

Times Higher Education revealed yesterday that a for-profit rock music school now receives more public funding for teaching than the London School of Economics after almost trebling the number of students holding state-backed loans in three years.

The British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) was the biggest recipient of Student Loan Company funding of any private provider in 2016-17, netting £24.4m in tuition fee loans from 4,183 full-time students.

The rapid expansion of BIMM follows investment by private equity firm Sovereign Capital. Sovereign Capital also owns Greenwich School of Management (GSM), which received almost £20m - the second-highest amount for a for-profit provider. GSM was accused of abuses of the loan system in November following an investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme.

Sally Hunt said: 'The rapid increase in the sums of money making their way to private equity firms with little checks or balances is quite extraordinary. We need a regulator who will enforce far greater transparency and better governance in our institutions and one that recognises the extra risk for-profit institutions pose.'

Last updated: 5 January 2018