Tuesday, 28 June 2011

In praise of OFFA

I too received one of these carefully worded emails in my day-job capacity, and I have to say my instinct was not to grumble about being asked to do more to widen participation - after all my employer is a charity and its educational work should therefore (in an ideal world) benefit primarily the disadvantaged - but to admire the care with which the wording had been constructed.

"Our aim is to improve the performance of the sector as a whole and we therefore need you to improve your absolute performance … as well as measure how you are doing compared to others," the watchdog wrote. "Please consider this issue as soon as possible and make any amendments you think appropriate."

OFFA has a delicate line to tread between Government's policy aspirations and its own sharply limited powers. Its one real power - to refuse to agree an Agreement - is a nuclear one and would almost certainly be challenged in law if ever exercised (after all, a medium sized university will lose £10 million or more for every year it goes without an Access Agreement - even lawyers don't cost that much). I really admire the way that OFFA are treading that line so carefully.


  1. Did every institution get this letter?

  2. I don't know, but I expect so. In our case there were a couple of data quality check items and four requests for minor redrafting. I'd have thought each institution would receive a lightly tailored version of the same email.