Professor Les Ebdon appointed next Director of Fair Access to Higher Education

Professor Les Ebdon, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Bedfordshire and chair of the University think-tank million+, has been appointed as the next Director of Fair Access to Higher Education. He will take over from Sir Martin Harris later this year.

During his nine years at Bedfordshire, Professor Ebdon oversaw the merger of the University of Luton and the Bedford campus of De Montfort University and saw student numbers at the new University of Bedfordshire grow from 10,000 to 23,000. Colleagues describe him as an inspirational leader with a vision of a world where everyone with the potential can benefit from the transforming experience of higher education.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Ebdon said: “I feel privileged to be appointed to this post at such a key time. I am passionate about access to higher education and strongly believe that no one should be put off from going to university because of their family background or income.

“As Director, I will respect the diversity of the sector and institutional autonomy while also working with all universities to ensure that their considerable efforts and very real commitment bear fruit. My role will be to provide greater challenge around outcomes but also to provide greater support through good practice and other guidance.”

OFFA’s outgoing director, Sir Martin Harris, said: “I warmly welcome Les as my successor. He brings to the role both depth of experience and a strong belief in the importance of fair access and I am sure he will provide excellent leadership to OFFA.

“I am confident that all universities will find that he takes a fair, balanced and considered approach to the very difficult issues of fair access and widening participation, helping them continue to work with schools to raise aspirations and standards.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “I am very pleased to welcome Professor Les Ebdon as the new Director of Fair Access. His vast experience, gained through a working lifetime in higher education will bring great benefits to the role and equip him to deal even-handedly with all parts of the sector.

“We undertook two long, thorough searches to ensure we found the right candidate for the post, and I have no doubt that Professor Ebdon has the qualities and determination to help those students from low-income or other under-represented groups to secure the places in higher education that their attainments and potential show they deserve.”


Notes to editors

  1. For the Government announcement of Professor Ebdon’s appointment, see
  2. The position of Director of Fair Access to Higher Education is a statutory appointee (under section 31 of and Schedule 5 to the Higher Education Act 2004).
  3. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non-departmental public body established under the Higher Education Act 2004 to help promote and safeguard fair access to higher education. The main way we do this is by approving and monitoring ‘access agreements’. All English universities and colleges offering full-time (and in future, part-time, subject to Parliamentary approval) undergraduate higher education courses must have an access agreement with us in order to charge higher fees. Access agreements set out the fees an institution wishes to charge and the access measures they will put in place to sustain or improve access and student retention. Access measures include outreach (e.g. summer schools, mentoring, after-school tuition and links with schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas) and financial support such as fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships.
  4. For more about OFFA, please see our website, particularly the Quick Facts and FAQ in the Press section.
  5. For further information, contact Zita Adamson, Communications Manager at OFFA, on 0117 931 7272 or 0117 931 7171.

One comment on “Professor Les Ebdon appointed next Director of Fair Access to Higher Education

    frmarcus says:

    The depressing appointment of Les Ebdon


    Today brings confirmation that No.10 has not stood in the way of Vince Cable appointing Les Ebdon as the new director of fair access. Ebdon’s appointment is depressing for several reasons. First, Cable has ridden roughshod over the objections of the BIS select committee to his choice. So much for all of the coalition’s talk about respecting parliament — this is executive arrogance at its worst.

    Second, Ebdon represents the mindset that has done so much damage to British education in the past 50 years. It is worrying that he does not seem to appreciate that the biggest ‘root cause’ of poorer pupils not getting into top universities is the quality of state schooling in deprived areas. His appointment will send a chill down the spine of every academically elite university in the country. The former vice chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire will now be sitting in judgement on their admissions’ policies.

    Finally, it shows how this country — or certainly its governing establishment — haven’t yet woken up the challenges we are going to have to face in competing in the global economy in the twenty-first century. In South Korea, children are being pushed so hard that the government has had to hire inspectors to enforce a 10pm curfew on tutoring. In Britain, we’re appointing a man who defends Mickey Mouse courses to oversee university access.

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