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Tory peer Lord Wharton resigns as chairman of higher education watchdog

The process to appoint an interim chair of the Office for Students is under way, the Department for Education said.

Lord Wharton arrives in Downing Street

Conservative peer Lord Wharton has resigned as chairman of England’s higher education watchdog.

Lord Wharton’s resignation from the independent Office for Students (OfS) has been accepted by the Department for Education (DfE).

The Tory peer’s appointment to the independent regulator in early 2021 sparked criticism from the Labour Party who warned of possible “cronyism”.

Lord Wharton of Yarm, a former Tory MP for Stockton South, had previously managed Boris Johnson’s Conservative party leadership campaign.

A DfE spokesman said: “The Department for Education would like to thank the chair of the Office for Students Lord Wharton for his service as chair of the Office for Students, through a period of change and challenge at the OfS.

“Lord Wharton’s resignation has been accepted. The process to appoint an interim chair is under way, and a permanent replacement will be announced in due course.”

Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said: “Lord Wharton joined the OfS in early 2021, as the country and the higher education sector began to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

“During his time as chair, the OfS has continued to develop as a regulator. We reset our approach to regulating quality, launched our Equality of Opportunity Risk Register and reported on the financial pressures affecting students and institutions.

“I’m grateful for his support for colleagues across the OfS during this period, and for all his work with our important sector.”

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