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Legal expert Simon Levine 'enormously excited' about role on new universities watchdog

DLA Piper executive says the new body will ensure that the interests of students would be “at the heart” of the higher education system.

    Simon Levine
    Simon Levine (DLA Piper)

    One of the country’s leading legal figures has been appointed to the board of the government’s new universities regulator.

    Simon Levine, an expert in intellectual property law, said the Office for Students, launched on Monday, offered a unique chance to ensure the interests of students would be “at the heart” of the higher education system.

    Jo Johnson, the Universities Minister, told an audience at the Limmud Festival last week that the OfS would take a tough stance on attempts to limit free expression. 

    The body is intended to “champion the interests of students”, the government said and would work to ensure the financial investment in higher education represented a “good deal” for students.

    Mr Levine, who is global co-chief executive of the DLA Piper law firm and a Radlett United Synagogue member, said he was “enormously excited” to join the board.

    “This represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put the student interest at the heart of a higher education system in which risk-based regulation promotes more competition, choice, diversity and excellence.

    “I am passionate about higher education and its future both as a father to two current undergraduates and hopefully one more in the near future, and global co-CEO of DLA Piper where we recruit hundreds of graduates from higher education world-wide every year.”

    The Hull-born Cambridge University graduate is a visiting professor and lecturer at Imperial College Business School, and said graduates had fuelled his firm’s growth and success.

    Sir Michael Barber, a leading education adviser, will chair the OfS, and his deputy will be lawyer Martin Coleman. Fellow board members include free schools founder Toby Young and Ruth Carlson, a student at Surrey University.

    Nicola Dandridge, the former head of the Universities UK umbrella group, who led a push for vice-chancellors to do more to tackle extreme speakers on their campuses, will be the chief executive of the new office.

    Sir Michael said the OfS’s board was “well-placed to successfully oversee the creation and guide the operation of a new organisation which will be shaping our brilliant higher education sector in the interests of students, short, medium and long term”.

    Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, said: “The higher education sector is one of our nation’s greatest assets, and the OfS will play a vital role in ensuring our universities retain their world-class reputation for years to come.

    “I welcome the new OfS board members to their important new roles. Their experience and skill will be key in ensuring the OfS achieves its ambitions.”

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