NUS president Shakira Martin is among the panel's 13 membersNUS

A student panel has been appointed to advise the Office for Students (OfS), the new regulatory group for higher education in the UK.

Comprised of 13 members, the student panel will advise members of the OfS board, and is designed to ensure that students are involved and their interests fully reflected in the work of the OfS. The panel will meet for the first time later this month, with the OfS becoming fully operational in April 2018.

Notable appointments to the student panel include Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students (NUS) and Chad Allen, former Cambridge Graduate Union president and current PHD student at King’s College.

Since the announcement of OfS board members last week, the appointment of Toby Young has attracted widespread criticism, with particular attention drawn to his comments about working class and disabled students. It has also been noted that the board does not have a representative from the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), which represents academic staff, nor anyone currently working in further education.

Last week, almost 100 Cambridge academics signed an open letter condemning Young’s appointment, and a petition calling for his removal has collected over 200,000 signatures, including that of CUSU president Daisy Eyre. The government has thus far supported Young in the face of these criticisms, with Theresa May making an appearance on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show to say he should be allowed to continue in his role. However, she added that, if he were to “continue to use that sort of language”, he should be sacked.

In a tweet posted today, Martin expressed disappointment that, as the representative of 7 million students, the NUS had not been given a place on the board as the “voice of students”. Instead, the only student representative on the OfS is Ruth Carlson, an engineering student at the University of Surrey. However, Martin had “no doubt” that the student panel would be a “strong force”.

In a subsequent statement, Martin acknowledged the “wholly unacceptable” comments previously made by Young, whom she said was “a [sic] unsuitable figure for public office”.

When the HE Bill passed through Parliament,” she said, “the government was mandated to appoint a dedicated Student Representative as part of the Board. It is therefore hugely concerning that the government felt unable to appoint any of the Student Representative applicants interviewed.”


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She continued, “I want to use my time demonstrating to the Office for Students the real issues facing the students I speak to everyday, the black attainment gap and the forgotten areas like FE and apprenticeships are areas the government must be doing more to support.”

In comment to Varsity, Chad Allen explained that “the most important duty of the student panel will be to hold the board to account” and to “scrutinise their work”. Whilst optimistic that the restructuring of the higher education regulatory framework offers the opportunity to make “substantial positive change for students”, Allen noted that the reforms also present a “number of serious risks to the sector”.

He added that he was “especially determined to ensure that postgraduate researcher students interests don’t get overlooked”

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