could the student watchdog be compromised?
The Government's preferred choice over who should become the chair of the Office for Students could continue taking the Conservative Party whip while acting as the independent regulator.
DFID - UK Department for International Development, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Lord Wharton has been questioned by MPs on whether there would be a conflict of interest if he were to take on the role.
The Office for Students is an independent watchdog for higher education in England which acts as a regulator and competition authority for the sector including making sure students get value for money and whether the quality is fair.
Lord Wharton told MPs that following the party whip would give him more “latitude”.
The Education Select Committee questioned Lord Wharton as part of a pre-appointment hearing for the role that currently offers to pay £59,000 per annum for two days' work.
A Conservative MP asked whether there would be a potential conflict of interest and if he would step away from the party.
Lord Wharton said he had an “open mind”.
He told the select committee that despite the possibility of following the party whip he would act independently including whether that meant possible conflict with the government or not.