Sir Michael Barber highlights achievements of OfS, as he agrees new digital role

Sir Michael Barber has highlighted significant achievements secured at the Office for Students (OfS) in an exchange of letters with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson published today which confirm that he will not seek a second term as chair.

Sir Michael Barber

Today’s confirmation will allow sufficient time for Sir Michael’s successor to be recruited and to enable a smooth handover.

Sir Michael has also agreed, at the Secretary of State's request, to lead a review into digital learning which will report ahead of Sir Michael’s departure from the OfS in March 2021. The review will consider how universities and other higher education providers can continue to enhance online teaching and learning for the new academic year, and explore longer term opportunities for digital teaching and learning.

After overseeing the establishment of the OfS as the independent regulator for higher education in England, Sir Michael has worked to ensure that the OfS is able to regulate effectively in the interests of students.

In his letter, Sir Michael sets out a range of achievements during his time at the OfS. These include:

  • the registration of nearly 400 universities, colleges and other higher education providers through a robust registration system which has also seen 25 applications refused
  • agreed targets to improve access to and success in higher education among students from disadvantaged backgrounds which would halve the access gap at our most selective universities within five years
  • improved the quality of, and access to, information about higher education for students and prospective students.

Writing to Gavin Williamson, Sir Michael said:

'It has been a privilege and honour to serve in this role. The role has given me the opportunity to visit nearly 40 different universities, colleges and innovative new providers to see for myself the activity students, academic staff, researchers and university administrators are engaged in. Each visit has been inspiring; the quality of teaching, learning, research and community engagement is truly remarkable and the sheer diversity of our institutions is a major strength.

'The country should be proud of its higher education system. Through to the end of my tenure I look forward to working with you and colleagues to ensure the higher education sector emerges from the pandemic in the best shape possible.'

Gavin Williamson said:

'I have hugely valued Sir Michael’s leadership, insight and advice during his time as Chair and I have enjoyed our working relationship.

'I am very thankful to him for his work leading the set up and transformation of the OfS, and particularly for his work tackling unconditional offers, senior executive pay and grade inflation.

'As the higher education sector emerges from the pandemic, I look forward to the findings of the review into ways of enhancing the quality of online learning and driving innovation, which will be critical for the future of the sector.'

Published 24 June 2020

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