Toby Young
Former journalist Toby Young has been appointed to a higher education watchdog Hammersmith & Fulham Council/Flickr CC


  • The former journalist has been appointed as a member of the new Office for Students.
  • However, some have questioned his suitability for the role.

Former journalist Toby Young has been appointed to the board of a new higher education watchdog, prompting his (many) critics to flag up controversial comments he has made in the past.

Young will be one of 15 members of the Office for Students (OfS), which will have powers to apply market forces to higher education, as well as regulate vice chancellors' pay and enforce free speech on campuses.

But his detractors have questioned whether the free school co-founder is fit for the post, and highlighted statements he has made about students, teachers, children and the LGBT community.

In the wake of criticism launched at controversial tweets he wrote in the past, Young deleted almost 50,000 of his posts on the social media website on Wednesday, according to BuzzFeed. One tweet read "Danny Boyle's wife's got huge knockers", while in another he joked about US cooking show host Padma Lakshmi: "I had my d*** up her a***"

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt commented: "If this organisation was to have any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students' interests.

"Instead we have this announcement sneaked out at New Year with Tory cheerleader Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers and no proper representation from staff or students."

Education Secretary Justine Greening commented that the OfS will uphold the "world class reputation" of British universities. Young, an associate editor of the Spectator, told that he would carry out his duties in an "impartial, objective and fair" way.

Below are some of his statements which have raised eyebrows.

Working class students

Among red flags was his use of "stains", a derogatory term for working class students who attend Oxbridge universities. In the 1988 book The Oxford Myth, Young said they were "universally unattractive" and "small, vaguely deformed undergraduates".

"It was as if all the meritocratic fantasies of every 1960s educationalist had come true and all Harold Wilson's children had been let in the gate," he wrote.


In his book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Young made the following comments about working with young women: "I became a Teaching Fellow in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. This brought me into daily contact with plenty of pretty students but anything of a sexual nature was strictly verboten."

He claimed that he "wasn't allowed to socialise with any of my charges outside the classroom unless there were at least three of them present at all times. I could just about see the ban on seeing one of them by themselves – what white, European male could resist the chance to pounce on a defenceless American maiden?"


In a piece dating from 2000 for GQ entitled I Was A Lesbian for a Night Young recounted visiting gay nightspots in New York, in which he used the derogatory term "dykes". He calls the regulars of one club "hard-core dykes" and said "several of them looked like German shot-putters."

Inclusivity and wheelchair ramps

"Inclusive. It's one of those ghastly, politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour," he wrote in a 2012 Spectator column. "Schools have got to be 'inclusive' these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from dyslexia to Münchausen syndrome by proxy."


Speaking on camera in 2013, Young suggested that teachers have an easy job.

"Teachers complain a lot about how tough their job is. But, you know, the day begins in most schools at nine o'clock, ends at 3.30pm," he said. "They have six weeks' holiday during the summer, two weeks' holiday at Easter and at Christmas. Yes, they don't just work when they're at school, but even so, compared to a lot of other jobs, it's not that tough."


An essay entitled The Fall of Meritocracy in 2015 saw Young argue under the header "progressive eugenics" that those in poverty should be able to select their embryos based on intelligence.

"Once this technology [genetically engineered intelligence] becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs?" he wrote in The Quadrant.

On being banned from the set of his own film

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People was made into a film in 2008 – but Young was banned from the set by Kirsten Dunst because she found him too irritating.

Recalling the scenario in a piece of the Spectator he wrote: "There is a saying in Hollywood which is that being a writer on the set of your movie is like being a husband in a maternity ward — and I didn't even write the movie."