Will the Office for Students respond to a Sussex MP?

It is always fascinating how some MPs can ask questions that are treated by the Government as that they are unable to respond to the details. Back on Friday one of the Sussex MPs who had set out a written request to the Department for Education received his answer and so the question and answer was published. The title for the Q&A was University of Sussex: Freedom of Expression and it can be obtained from here. The question came from Tim Loughton who is the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham. The response came from Claire Coutinho and she works in the DfE which is currently managed by Gillian Keegan who is also a Sussex MP. The question and answer was

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the status is of the Office for Students (OfS) investigation into academic freedoms at Sussex University and free speech launched in November 2021; and when the OfS will publish the findings of that investigation.

A: As the regulator for higher education in England, the Office for Students is an independent public body. Any investigations that they conduct are a matter for them and it is not for the department to provide comment.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill includes a range of measures aimed at protecting and promoting freedom of speech and academic freedom in higher education in England. In particular, it introduces a new complaints route for staff, members, students and visiting speakers, to be operated by the OfS, and creates a new statutory tort, enabling individuals to seek legal redress in the courts for loss they have suffered as a result of breaches of the specified duties.

Now it does seem strange that Claire did not answer the question directly but instead she appeared to ignore the question and provided some context responses. That said, clearly Tim could have contacted the Office for Students or indeed the University of Sussex and then if he feels that the responses are not sufficient then he could come back to the Government to ask for a more detailed response. Given that the question and answer session is public. perhaps his responses will be public? The recent Chief Executive for the Office for Students is Susan Lapworth and Conor Ryan is the Director of External Relations so perhaps both of them will respond to Tim?

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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