Fight for a democratic and accountable system of free education
Toby Young, pioneer of the ‘Free School ‘ movement which was part of the drive to force schools from the democratic control of local councils into the arms of unaccountable businesses and entrepreneurs, has been appointed as the government’s new ‘Universities Tsar’.
Taking up a position on the executive board of the newly constituted Office for Students (OfS), Young has met widespread condemnation from students, education workers and trade unions for the litany of outright sexist and homophobic remarks he has publicly made in the past. As if that weren’t enough, Young has repeatedly come out against the culture of ‘inclusivity’ in the state school system, and once even described working class students as ‘stains’.
The reality however is that Young, an outspoken supporter of the Tories’ education reforms, is more than well suited politically for his new position. Already, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former frontbench Tory MP Priti Patel have defended Young’s appointment.
The Office for Students, whose ruling board is comprised of a group of business executives which includes the CEO of the multinational law firm DLA Piper, the managing director of Boots UK, and the former policy adviser to Tony Blair Sir Michael Barber, is part and parcel of the Tory government’s rabid drive to marketise our places of education. Not a single position on the 15 strong board has been left vacant for a trade union representative or a representative from the National Union of Students.
As according to Jo Johnson, whereas the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) - the predecessor to the OfS - was dedicated to “ensuring the sector was suitably funded and the financial sustainability of the sector was assured”, the new OfS, which will inherit the responsibilities of the HEFCE, will be “be driving value for money in the provision of higher education.”
How? According to the Department for Education itself, by creating “and encouraging innovative providers to enter the market and meet demand.” The real objectives of the OfS clearly amount to nothing more than forcing the barefaced marketisation and privatisation of our universities – the same transformation which for years Toby Young has strove for in comprehensive secondary education.
Young’s appointment reveals the true nature of the Tory party, which is not truly interested in the well-being of students – it is concerned only with increasing the opportunities for the market to use our places of education for the creation of profit. Socialist Students demands the removal of Toby Young from the OfS board as well as the establishment of a truly democratic and accountable system of free and fully funded education which is ran by and in the interests of students, staff and the trade unions.
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