Toby Young’s lack of relevant qualifications and experience for his appointment to the board of a new Higher Education watchdog demonstrates the power of who you know rather than what you have done within the British right-wing political establishment.
The Spectator columnist claims the criticism he has faced for the appointment is because he is an “outspoken Tory”. However, people across the political spectrum have complained that he possesses few of the qualities, qualifications, or experience, and would never have been appointed if not for his close ties to Tory Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
The remit of his role as one of fifteen board members for the newly created Office of Students is to hold universities to account on controversial issues such as free speech on campus and soaring vice chancellors’ pay, with powers to fine universities which fail to meet the required standards.
Prior to his appointment earlier this month, Young has had no role in higher education administration, but claims that his background in setting up the West London Free School in 2011 and running the New Schools Network provides him ample experience. The West London Free School has come under criticism for its choice of location, which pushed a number of charities out of their premises, inability to keep head teachers in the role for more than a year, and for failing to represent the local community.
As a journalist, Young has drawn fierce criticism over recent years for describing working class students as “stains” in a 1988 book about class called ‘The Oxford Myth’ by Rachel Johnson, sister to Conservative MPs Boris and Jo Johnson.
In a 2012 Spectator column, the journalist railed against the idea of “inclusive” schools that offered wheelchair access and help for dyslexic students. He went on to call for the repeal of the Equality Act and mocked anyone that struggled as a “functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six”.
More recently on social media, Young has spent time publicly belittling women by reducing their appearances on political discussion shows to the size of their breasts or other body parts, comments which are entirely inappropriate for someone tasked with representing the broad spectrum of students and academics, both male and female, at British universities.
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