Office for Students

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Office for Students
Logo of the Office for Students.png
Agency overview
Formed1 January 2018
Preceding agencies
TypeNon-departmental public body
Minister responsible
Agency executives
Parent departmentDepartment for Education Edit this at Wikidata

The Office for Students (OfS) is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Education, acting as the regulator and competition authority for the higher education sector in England.[1]

In February 2021, James Wharton, Baron Wharton of Yarm was made the new chair.[2]


The regulator was established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, coming into existence on 1 January 2018.[3] It merged the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access, and formally inherited their responsibilities, while 'working in the interests of students and prospective students'[4] and having 'a wider remit ... taking charge of the granting of degree awarding powers and university title.'[5] The OfS inherited HEFCE's funding responsibilities (aside from those for research which passed to United Kingdom Research and Innovation), and OFFA's responsibility for promoting fair access to higher education.


The OfS website lists its main areas of work as:

  1. Helping students to get into and succeed in higher education.
  2. Helping students stay informed.
  3. Making sure that students get a high-quality education that prepares them for the future.
  4. Protecting students’ interests.

It notes that it is not responsible for tuition fees, students loans or other aspects of individual student funding, and that it cannot usually get involved in individual complaints about universities and colleges.[6]

The OfS's other functions include the administration of the Teaching Excellence Framework[7] and the Register of higher education providers.[8] It is responsible both for administering the prevent duty and for ensuring that universities allow freedom of speech for controversial guest speakers.[9]


The current OfS Chair is Lord Wharton and its Chief Executive is Nicola Dandridge.[10] They both serve on the OfS board, along with:

  • Martin Coleman (deputy chair), formerly Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Gurpreet Dehal, formerly Credit Suisse
  • Elizabeth Fagan, managing director of Boots
  • Katja Hall, formerly of HSBC
  • Verity Hancock, Principal and Chief Executive of Leicester College
  • Kathryn King, former Chief Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales
  • Kate Lander, Eukleia Training
  • Simon Levine, CEO of DLA Piper
  • Martha Longdon, student representative
  • John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation
  • David Palfreyman, Director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies
  • Steve West, vice-chancellor of UWE[11]

The board is advised by a panel of students.[12]


The appointment of Toby Young to the board, announced on 1 January 2018, generated controversy over his suitability for the post.[13] As at 8 January 2018, over 200,000 people had signed an online petition protesting his appointment. In response to questioning the Prime Minister declared herself comfortable with his appointment, while the Universities minister defended him in the House of Commons. After criticism from leading Tory MPs, Young resigned on that day, claiming he had been turned into a caricature.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Office for Students Framework Document" (PDF). Office for Students. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018. The OfS is a non-Departmental public body of the Department, established by the Act to fulfil a role as the main regulator of higher education in England.
  2. ^ "'Cronyism' warning over Tory peer as student watchdog". BBC News. 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  3. ^ Leach, Mark; Kernohan, David; Buckley-Irvine, Nona. "OfS establishment being brought forward". Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  4. ^ "What the OfS does for students". Office for Students. 7 March 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Higher education bill seeks powerful Office for Students". Times Higher Education. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  6. ^ "What we do". Office for Students. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  7. ^ "What is the TEF?". Office for Students. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  8. ^ "The Register". Office for Students. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  9. ^ Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel; Woolcock, Nicola (19 October 2017). "Universities told to guarantee free speech". The Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Who we are". Office for Students. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Our board and committees". Office for Students. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Our student panel". Office for Students. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Doubts cast on DfE claims of Toby Young's qualifications for watchdog job". The Guardian. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Toby Young resigns from the Office for Students after backlash". The Guardian. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Toby Young: how barrage of nudges made OfS position untenable". The Guardian. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.

External links[edit]

Official website Edit this at Wikidata