Sinead Brown, a year 10 student from Ark Putney Academy in London, has won a place on the new Office for Students panel, a government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the higher education sector in England. Sinead was selected from 70 applicants and will become the panel's youngest voice for higher education reform.
The Office for Students (OfS) will serve on the frontline for student interests in higher education, at a time when the increase of fees, salaries, freedom of speech and general value for money have all been called into question. The aim of the OfS is to promote choices for students and to be “innovative in its approach to student participation, success and employability”, working to promote fair access to higher education for students of all backgrounds. In order for the OfS to be able to drive positive change the Department of Education has announced that it will also hold universities to account over issues such as Vice-Chancellor pay and free speech.
Sinead will join a 13 member panel which includes current undergraduate and postgraduate students, part-time and international students, prospective students and recent graduates. It is hugely commendable that as a year 10 student, Sinead is younger than her all of her peers at OFS by two school years.
Sinead says, "I initially took on the opportunity to learn and gain an insight into the world of work and the interview process. It was the first time I had applied for anything outside of school and it was a really demanding process. I'm excited to take the position on the panel, and as its youngest member I want to make sure I reflect the views of students my age – why many of them don’t choose higher education and how I can help to encourage them to see it as an option."
Ark Putney Principal Alison Downey said, "We are immensely proud of Sinead’s achievements – and we're looking forward to seeing positive relationships continue to grow within our wider student community."
The Office for Students will come into effect by 1 April 2018 and the panel will meet for the first time later this month, when they will start work to agree on their priorities and programme of work. We look forward to hearing more from Sinead as she settles in to her new post.