Browse > Home / coalition, Liberal Democrats, UK Politics / OFFA should be scrapped

| Subcribe via RSS

OFFA should be scrapped

November 3rd, 2010 Posted in coalition, Liberal Democrats, UK Politics by

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills have set out the government’s initial plans in response to the Browne review of Higher Education Funding. It is something of a fudge, with a weak cap on fees at £6,000 and higher cap at £9,000 linked to agreements for improving access through the Office for fair access (OFFA).

OFFA itself was set up in 2004 as part of Labour’s compromise with their left-wing to vote through variable fees above £1,200. It has been nicknamed ‘OFToff’ and critics regard it largely as political sop to those obsessed with the notion higher education is a vast meritocratic conspiracy against the poor.

It is not an expensive sop. Running costs of half a million pounds a year, with a part time Director on £45k, and 4 staff, put it in the league of small charities and think tanks rather than obscene waste.

But what is does do is set up and monitor meaningless agreements with universities that regulate activities such as outreach and bursaries that happened before OFFA existed and are properly the business of charities, trusts, campaigns, schools, and the universities themselves.

Or in other words Cameron’s Big Society. It should have been a natural candidate for the quango cull.

Further there is no good evidence either that universities discriminate against the poor on grounds other than merit, or that the best pace to tackle “inherited disadvantage” is late in life through publicity. The whole Liberal Democrat ethos around the pupil premium is based, correctly, on the notion that investment in early years education is the best way of helping people achieve their later potential.

There is also good evidence that private and third sectors do provide excellent support for those who are talented and disadvantaged in the US higher education system, without need for government compulsion.

It is in that regard OFFA is an entirely unnecessary state institution. The persistence of the access agreements in the new deal for funding a silly anachronism. OFFA and these agreements should be scrapped.

2 Responses to “OFFA should be scrapped”

  1. It doesn't add up... Says:

    A very sound analysis with which I concur entirely. Offa’s dyke is a footpath: OFFA should be trampled out of existence – it leads nowhere.

  2. Psi Says:

    You don’t need to abolish it, just spin it off. If lots of universities want to sign up to pay a fee and be “monitored” for “Fair Access” then it will survive, it not then there is no need for it. Government should not abolish these things, just see if they can stand on their own, if they don’t there was no need for them in the first place.

    I suspect it would fold but I would allow it the chance to justify its existance in the private sector.