Joan Bakewell leads attempts to down Of-Stud

Written by James Millar on 10 January 2017 in Diary

Peers discuss champagne and elephants in odd debate over name for the new universities regulator

Joan Collins may have started in steamy 70s move The Stud but last night her namesake, Labour peer Joan Bakewell, led a revolt in the Lords against Of-Stud.

In scenes that in no way will convince critics that the upper chamber should be scrapped one Labour lord offered a bottle of champagne to anyone who could come up with a better title for the new universities regulator than the government's preferred title of Office for Students, or Of-Stud for short.

Lord Lipsey tabled an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill which is currently making it's way through the House of Lords calling on the government to drop the Office for Students title because the body will also be concerned with the people who run universities. Explaining at the start of this speech that he was "unfortunately" not drunk Lord Lipsey warned that in choosing the new body's name the government was in danger of creating a "sort of Orwellian other world in which things no longer mean what they are supposed to mean."

His Labour colleague Joan Bakewell, president of Birkbeck university, took up the attack. She warned: "In the fake news and post-truth era getting words exact matters more than ever." The former broadcaster once described as "the thinking man's crumpet" said that although the debate appeared "silly" she deplored the name Of-Stud for the new regulator which will replace the Higher Education Council for England and the Office for Fair Access when the bill becomes law. 

Tory opponent Lord Lucas took up Lord Lipsey's challenge to think of a better name for the new body suggesting it could have the acronym OFFS. Since his cheeky contribution was not ruled out of order and he went on to argue that changing the organisation's name to the Office for Higher Education would be shortened to Ofhed. He added: "I think the minister would be that if he accepted the amendment."

Labour's Lord Stevenson warned there was an "elephant parading around the bill" and dismissed the Office for Students as "completely bonkers" if it does not have any student representation on its board.

For the government Viscount Leckie explained that the name was chosen because the new regulator would "have students at its heart" and the rebel peers were forced to withdraw their amendment leading Baroness Bakewell to sadly tweet: "Welcome Of-Stud"

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