Sir Michael Barber has come a long way: ex school teacher / ex NUT officer / ex Labour Party candidate / ex No 10 Policy Unit / ex Pearson / ex McKinsey / ex ... . He is the chair of the Orwellian, Office for Students, the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for HE in England which begins work next year. Although it sounds like a piece of software Bill Gates sells, OfS replaces HEFCE and OFA.
But Barber seems to think his remit extended well beyond students, telling The Times the other day:
“Exceptional pay should be for exceptional performance. I don’t want to comment on individuals but where you haven’t got the track record and where your pay sticks out like a sore thumb, then you should be asking yourselves questions and we will regulate that.”
There we are: the promise of government control of Vice-Chancellor's salaries. Will universities put up with this? Or will some of them revolt? My breath is not being held, but I hope some do as I think it's an abuse of the supposedly hands-off relationship between politicians and universities. Where, we should ask, will this end?
Equally significantly, in all this rush to be the champion of the student experience, I hope OfS remembers that universities also have responsibilities towards society and the future and that they are not just there for here today and gone tomorrow students.