Threshold standards. Tuition Fees. Regulation. Market entry. Dual-support. Academic freedom. Challenger institutions. TEF. These are just some of the hot topics in the higher education debate as a result of the government’s White Paper and resulting Higher Education and Research Bill.
But here at Wonkhe, such issues appear trivial when considered alongside the most important piece in the new higher education jigsaw: the branding of the new Office for Students.
Only now are you, dear reader, coming to this very same conclusion.
The new design will be a tough act to follow. The iconic stalwart of the past 24 years of higher education has been this piece of magnificence, the logo of the Higher Education Funding Council for England:
Such a logo symbolises the steady stewardship of this great quango over the past two decades. From the quality wars to tuition fee rises, this icon of design has looked down benevolently on sector officials and provided calm reassurance. The solid block type. The sweeping ‘f’. On the face of it quiet and unassuming, and yet steely and determined, it is emblematic of HEFCE’s role in calmly moderating the competing interests of governments, institutions, students and taxpayers. But sadly, it is nearing retirement.
The new logo of the Office for Students will have to reflect a new kind of tougher, active regulation that the government is expecting. It will have to be more assertive, but also responsive to a more diverse sector. It will need to look comfortable on a 300 page validation file as much as on the uniform of its search-and-entry force. It must therefore reflect the diverse roles that the OfS will be undertaking, from standards to market entry, TEF to validation.
That’s why we at Wonkhe feel it would be best for our imaginative community to get their heads down and submit their best ideas. From the deadly serious to the downright satirical, we are inviting all types of submissions. Entries can of course be anonymous.
To spark some creativity, we’ve hit the ground running with our own concepts. The first most obvious destination is the government coat of arms and style for most departments and related non-departmental bodies. We know that the OfS’s sister organisation, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is to be granted the coat of arms after research councils fought to keep their own brand identity to signal independence from the government.
We sincerely hope that the Office for Students will not have to conform to this rather drab convention, but is this the shape of things to come?
With austerity and efficiency in mind, we wondered whether it might be easiest simply to recycle the brand of an existing education regulator?