The higher education regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), has today named John Blake as its new director for fair access and participation.
Blake, currently head of public affairs and engagement at Ark, the charity which operates multi academy trust Ark Schools will succeed Chris Millward whose four year term of office expires at the end of December 2021.
The director for fair access and participation is a statutory position, established in the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 which also established the Office for Students. The £130k a year post is one of two executive positions reporting directly to the OfS board appointed by the secretary of state. The other being the chief executive.
Under the Act, Blake assumes a range of powers to approve, monitor, and report on higher education providers’ performance against their access and participation plans. Colleges that deliver higher education, as well as universities, are required to develop and publish these plans.
This appointment comes at the same time as higher and further education minister Michelle Donelan will, in a speech today, announce a “change of focus” in higher education widening participation efforts “towards positive graduate outcomes” and pre-18 attainment.
As the new director for fair access and participation, Blake will be charged with leading on this new strategy.
“I am delighted to be appointed as director for fair access and participation. I look forward to working with universities and colleges to ensure that young people from all backgrounds are able to access the education that is right for their achievements and aspirations” John Blake said.
“I am especially keen to see further development of partnerships between higher education providers and groups of schools to improve attainment for disadvantaged young people throughout their schooling, providing them the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to access higher education.
“But attainment and access are only the first steps: they need to be matched by participation and success. It is crucial that students are able to study on high quality courses which meet their needs, and are then supported so they are ready to embark on rewarding lives and careers after graduating.”