OfS chair Lord Wharton suddenly resigns

The political independence of the HE regulator has been criticised under Wharton's tenure

The political independence of the HE regulator has been criticised under Wharton's tenure

Lord Wharton has resigned as chair of the Office for Students six months before his term of office was due to end. 

The Conservative peer suddenly stood down days after the election of a Labour government. 

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Gavin Williamson

It also follows a damning report last year from a House of Lords committee slamming the higher education regulator’s political independence. University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady called on Wharton to resign at the time.

Wharton was appointed in February 2021 by the then education secretary Gavin Williamson, for a four-year term. He was made a life peer in 2020 after serving as an MP and minister between 2010 and 2017. 

As OfS chair, Wharton received an annual salary of £59,000, set by DfE, for two days a week.

An un-named Department for Education spokesperson thanked Wharton “for his service as chair of the Office for Students through a period of change and challenge at the OfS”.

Wharton’s term at the OfS was mired in controversy. 

The peer, who led Boris Johnson’s Conservative party leadership campaign, faced calls for an investigation after speaking at an event alongside Zsolt Bayer, a Hungarian talk show host with known racist and antisemitic views. 

The government was forced to defend Wharton’s appointment at the OfS against accusations of cronyism.

On today’s resignation, the DfE spokesperson added: “Lord Wharton’s resignation has been accepted. The process to appoint an interim chair is underway, and a permanent replacement will be announced in due course.”

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