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Does Prof Ebdon read Thomas Hardy? And if not, does it matter?

The whiff of snobbery that I was detecting in the row over Vince cable’s choice of Prof Les Ebdon as the new director of the Office of Fair Access seems to becoming a stench. Witness this extraordinary article from Charles Moore in the Telegraph.

Apparently the retiring University of Bedfordshire Vice Chancellor, Prof Ebdon, is unsuitable to be the head of this body designed to ensure the as wide a range of people as possible can get access to a university education because he “will never understand poor people like Jude the Obscure”.

Now you may wonder why the deep knowledge of a fictional character in one of the great novels of Thomas Hardy is an essential requirement to head up a body that is about fairness in education. Well according to Mr Moore, Hardy’s hero was awestruck by Oxford. Apparently it is now an essential requirement for today’s modern student that they should emulate Jude and be afraid of their university.

By way of a little dig at Luton, Mr Moore goes on to explain that Prof Ebdon is opposed to this view and believes that universities should be “user-friendly”. So what is needed instead to head up this body is “a leading ex-public school headmaster”.

Believe me, I’m not making this nonsense up! Go read for yourself.

I said before that my judgement was that Prof Ebdon was a good choice for this role, but I did have some reservations in taking that view. Witnessing the Tory right puff themselves up to ridiculous proportions in order to oppose the appointment has shoved those reservations right out the window.

So it is Ebdon for OFFA for me!

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