Time and again the free school zealot has shown that his views are incompatible with an open and inclusive education system.
Since May formed her government 18 months ago, she has faced a backlash on plenty of her appointments. But few have stirred the level of backlash – particularly on social media – than the appointment of Toby Young to the Office for Students, the new university regulator.
Since the announcement at 00:01 on New Year’s Day, the bangs, blasts and booms from the fireworks were not the only ones about to reverberate around Westminster. Some disagreement was surely to be expected – but the rigorous condemnation has resulted in several high-profile ministers and right-wing commentators coming to the defence of Mr Young.
There is, however, little defence for the so-called ‘Toadmeister’.
As thousands more working class students attend elite institutions like Oxbridge, they require a representative who understands how hard they have worked to get where they are, and the struggles they encounter once they get there.
Whether these struggles be related to their mental health or financial matters, they need to believe as though their interests are being advocated for at the highest level.
But Toby Young’s appointment is unlikely to result in the ambitions of working-class students becoming a reality. After describing working class students as ‘stains’ and ‘small, deformed undergraduates’, one would be forgiven for thinking that this is a man who represents neither students or the struggles of the 21st century.
Despite Young’s own assertions that he has worked tirelessly to help boost educational opportunity for all, his past statements offer a dark insight into what the next few years may hold in the fight against educational prejudice and inequality.
Many have questioned the selection process for this role and why he was given the job. Nazir Afzal was brave enough to admit he was unsuccessful in applying for the role. But what he was also quick to point out was the seemingly endless experience in higher education that he has – which includes being pro-Chancellor of one university, a governor of a second and also possessing two honorary doctorates.
The outrage is directed at what appears to be the continuation of the elites rewarding each other, despite the considerable experience and qualifications of others.
The circles of power are inextricably intertwined, as highlighted by Boris Johnson, who commissioned Young as a writer at The Spectator coming to the defence of the Universities Minister who appointed Young to the role. The same Universities Minister happens to Jo Johnson, the brother of Boris.
The educational opinions of Toby Young are not the only ones that have been put under the Twitter spotlight. Past Tweets reveal his discriminatory beliefs about women, homosexuals and the working classes – some of which he has now deleted.
Toby Young needs to accept that institutions like Oxbridge are not solely the playgrounds of privileged anymore, as much as he wishes them to be. And despite what appear to be his greatest efforts, we now inhabit a society that is far more inclusive, aspirational and intelligent because of the endeavours of students across the country.
George Cook is Deputy Editor and Comment Editor of Gair Rhydd, Cardiff University’s student newspaper.
Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?
Leave a Reply