Manifesto for the Director of Fair Access & Participation 34: Gary Attle, Mills & Reeve LLP

Brightside and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have released a collection of action points for the new Office for Students on unlocking access to higher education. Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation contains the views of 35 leading thinkers from academia, university administration, Parliament, think tanks and the media.

We’re also publishing each entry individually. Here Gary Attle, Partner and Head of Education and Governance at Mills & Reeve LLP, gives his perspective:

‘There are many Latin phrases which one had to learn as a Law student. One of the more popular phrases is a principle of responsibility in certain types of legal claim: ‘res ipsa loquitur’, meaning ‘the thing speaks for itself’.

Several universities have the Latin phrase ‘rerum cognoscere causas’ as their motto, which means ‘to know the causes of things’. This would appear to be a timely mission given that a mandatory ‘transparency condition’ will be introduced into the new regulatory framework by the Higher Education and Research Act (2017). The transparency condition will require certain registered higher education bodies to provide to the Office for Students such data as is requested relating to the number of applications received, offers made, offers accepted, courses completed and awards provided. The Office for Students may request the data by reference to gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. Higher education institutions will also be required to publish the data.

Is it sufficient to let this data ‘speak for itself’? If we are committed ‘to know the causes of things’, we need careful reflection and further research from the Office for Students, universities and other organisations into the specific contexts behind this data to help public understanding and the development of appropriate policies.’