David Cameron has admitted he does not possess the power to block the appointment of Les Ebdon as the new university access tsar, despite a snub by senior Tory MPs.
A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed he had admitted defeat over the selection made by Vince Cable, which was rejected by the Business, Innovations and Skills select committee last week,The Guardian reported.
Now, business secretary Cable's dogged insistence to stand by his man has paid off.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Cable said: "Vince remains of the view that Les Ebdon is the right candidate for the role of Director of Fair Access. He will urgently consider the select committee's recommendation and respond shortly."
Despite the committee refusing to endorse the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University as the new director of the Office for DFiar Access (Offa), the appointment will go ahead after Cameron conceded defeat.
The committee is merely an advisory body, meaning only Cameron had the power to intervene. But, facing Cable, Tim Melville-Ross, chair of the higher education funding council for England and social mobility tsar Alan Milburn, Cameron declined to step in.
So why are so many opposed to Ebdon as Offa chief?
The BIS committee's report said while Ebdon demonstrated "an all-round understanding" of widening participation, "we were not convinced by Ebdon's descriptions of root causes of the obstacles to accessing universities".
Meanwhile, the Conservatives' Fair Access to University Group is preparing to publish a report criticising the appointment, claiming Ebdon does not appreciate poor state school education is a major problem.