Concerns over alleged political interference in appointment of new ESRC chair


The Council for the Defence of British Universities is deeply concerned by reports of undue political involvement in the appointment of a new Economic and Social Research Council Executive Chair, as reported in The Financial Times and other outlets this week. It is currently understood that a candidate was recommended by an independent panel, but was later vetoed by a government Minister on the basis of the candidate’s supposed political affiliations.

The UK Governance Code on Public Appointments states in Section 2: ‘All public appointments should be governed by the principle of appointment on merit’. Whilst Ministers are not bound by the advice of Advisory Assessment Panels (Sec. 3), the CDBU is concerned that the appointment process of the new ESRC Executive Chair appears to have been compromised by politicisation and unjustified government interference. 

The CDBU believes that short-term political considerations should play no part in public appointments.

Notes to editors:

The CDBU was founded in 2012 by a wide range of concerned academics and public figures to campaign for the independence of UK universities and to resist the creeping marketisation of higher education.

For more information, please contact Press Officer Becca Bashford at

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