Toby Young's appointment to board of higher education watchdog sparks criticism

Former right-wing journalist and free schools advocate has a history of outspoken remarks

Monday 01 January 2018 22:40 GMT
Toby Young stands down from government universities regulator

Toby Young's appointment to the board of a new higher education watchdog has sparked criticism.

The former right-wing journalist and free schools advocate will sit on the board of the Office for Students (OfS), which will help lead the Government’s drive to apply market forces to higher education.

New laws are set come into force that will regulate universities in the same way as gas or water utilities.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said the OfS will look to ensure the “world class reputation” of the UK’s universities is maintained but the appointment of Mr Young has been met with criticism.

Mr Young has a history of outspoken remarks and in a column for The Spectator complained about “ghastly inclusivity” of wheelchair ramps in schools.

He also described working-class grammar school boys who secured places at Oxford as “universally unattractive” and “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates”.

Writing about class in a book called The Oxford Myth, Mr Young recounted how the arrival of “stains” – as working-class students were known – had changed the university.

Mr Young said: “It was as if all the meritocratic fantasies of every 1960s educationalist had come true and all Harold Wilson’s children had been let in at the gate.”

Labour MP David Lammy took to social media to express his dismay at the appointment.

He tweeted: “Is that Toby Young who said I was wrong to criticise Oxbridge for failing to improve access?

“The Toby Young who only got into Oxford University because his Dad rang the tutor up?

“Toby Young who slated working class students? I thought it was New Year’s Day not April Fool’s Day.”

Left-wing journalist Paul Mason, also criticised the move and said: “Toby Young despises working class kids who try to make good through education.

"That's why the Tories have put him on a body responsible for regulating higher education.”

The Department for Education (DfE) defended Mr Young’s appointment. A spokesperson for the DfE said: “Toby Young’s diverse experience includes posts at Harvard and Cambridge as well as co-founding the successful West London free school.

“He will provide vital insight in ensuring universities are working for young people from all backgrounds.”

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