University watchdog 'failed to vet Toby Young thoroughly for post'

Toby Young was not vetted as thoroughly as another candidate for a role at the new university watchdog, a report revealed today.

The journalist was appointed to the Office for Students last month, but stepped down after complaints about a string of crude and sexist comments he had made on Twitter, for which he apologised. 

An inquiry by the Commissioner for Public Appointments found there was a “clear disparity” in the treatment of different candidates. The Department of Education admitted it was unaware of the tweets by Mr Young — even though the social media accounts of a candidate for another role on the board were “extensively examined”. 

“Due diligence was inadequate and not conducted in respect of all candidates on an equal basis, compromising the principle of fairness,” the report stated. 

“Mr Young’s reputation as a controversialist, in itself hardly a secret, should have prompted further probing to examine whether what he had said and done might conflict with his public responsibilities and standards expected on the OfS board.

“The rapid disclosure of what were described as offensive tweets in the days after his appointment suggests it was not that hard to find them.” 

The report reveals that Jo Johnson, then universities minister, contacted Mr Young about applying for the post, and that his nomination was queried by Justine Greening, then education secretary. 

The report said lessons should be learned so that all talented candidates wishing to serve on public bodies should know they would get a fair hearing.

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