Sam Gyimah to replace Jo Johnson as Universities Minister following student row

Image credit: Henrimatisse

Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson has been replaced by Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey, in the recent cabinet reshuffle, following Toby Young’s resignation from the Office for Students (OfS). The move represents the second major personnel change in the Department of Education this week, following Justine Greenings replacement by Damian Hinds, the MP for East Hampshire. Johnson has been made Transport Minister by the PM.

The appointment of Toby Young to the OfS, backed by Johnson, sparked significant outcry after it emerged the Spectator columnist made several controversial tweets in previous years. Johnson defended the appointment in the House of Commons yesterday, suggesting that although the tweets were “obnoxious and repellant”, Young had been on a “developmental journey” since making them, and was an “eloquent advocate for free speech”. Theresa May has said she was “not impressed” by the language of the tweets, although it is uncertain as to whether Young’s appointment was the reason for Johnson’s move to Transport Secretary.

Reacting to Young’s resignation, the former Universities minister tweeted that “Toby Youngs’ track record setting up & supporting free schools speaks for itself. His decision to stand down from the OfS board and repeat unreserved apologies for inappropriate past remarks reflects his character better than the one-sided caricature from his armchair critics.”

Following his move to Transport Secretary, Johnson tweeted his support for Gyimah, describing his successor as “brilliant”, while also paying tribute to Universities, which he called “Our greatest national asset & the best thing about this country”.

 

 

Young, a co-founder of West London Free School and strong advocate of free speech, was appointed to OfS last week. The new regulator was founded to ensure freedom of speech was upheld of University Campuses, which Jo Johnson claimed was threatened by the practice of No Platforming. Other responsibilities of the regulator including tackling sky rocketing Vice Chancellor salaries, enforcing the Prevent protocol, and employing the much maligned Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which would rank Universities based in part on the National Student Survey, which CUSU and Cambridge Defend Education have encouraged students to boycott.

Sam Gimyah has been MP for East Surrey since 2010. Born in Beaconsfield, the new minister was educated at a prestigious school in Ghana before returning to the UK for his GCSEs and A Levels. He then attended Sommerville College Oxford, reading PPE and being elected President of the Oxford Union. Following a spell as investment banker at Goldman Sachs, he set up Clearstone Training and Recruitment Ltd, before becoming Chairman of the Bow Group, a Conservative Think Tank in 2006.

Speaking to Varsity, CUSU president Daisy Eyre said: “Over his tenure, Jo Johnson has pursued an agenda that has brought universities to the forefront of national politics and media attention, but not necessarily one that has put students’ needs first. As yet, Sam Gyimah is a relatively unknown entity and in order to do his job well he must make an effort to connect with students and find out what we care about.”

“There are lots of pressing issues in HE, from mental health to rent to decolonising the curriculum to student debt to sexual assault on campus.I hope that he will devote his attention to these issues rather than pursuing the current relentless attack on universities and march towards further marketisation.”

 

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