The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Higher Education leadership shaken up by Theresa May

Jo Johnson was removed from his 32-month term as Universities Minister in the most recent cabinet reshuffle, and was replaced by Sam Gyimah


Jo Johnson was removed from his position as universities minister in a cabinet reshuffle that completely reimagined higher education leadership.

Theresa May’s parliamentary reshuffle, which kicked off on Monday 8th January, replaced Jo Johnson with Sam Gyimah, ending Johnson’s 32-month incumbency as Minister of State for Universities and Science.

Jo Johnson, younger brother to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, is now Transport Minister and Minister for London.

Jo Johnson MP becomes Minister of State at the Department for Transport @transportgovuk and Minister for London #Reshuffle

— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) January 9, 2018

MP for East Surrey Sam Gyimah leaves behind his previous post as Prisons Under-Secretary to take up his new role at the Department for Education, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Under David Cameron, Gyimah worked as Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education for one year. During his term, Gyimah filibustered an opposition-proposed bill for compulsory first-aid teaching in primary schools. His contributions blocked the bill from progressing to a vote.

In 2010, Gyimah voted in favour of raising England’s undergraduate tuition fee cap to £9,000 per year, and in 2011, he voted to end financial support for some 16-19 year olds in training and further education.

Photo: Chris McAndrew

Sam Gyimah. Photo: Chris McAndrew @Wikimedia Commons

Gyimah himself was educated in a primary school in Ghana, a state comprehensive in Hertfordshire, and attended Oxford University on a student grant. In a 2014 interview with The Independent, Gyimah described his financial difficulties and reliance on bursars at Oxford.

The Tory MP told the interviewer: “Since then I’ve been involved with the college helping raise bursary funds for disadvantaged students.”

Jo Johnson expressed approval of his successor in a tweet shortly after his move was announced, that described Mr Gyimah as a “Brilliant successor”.

Public reception to the government’s announcement of Gyimah’s appointment on Twitter has been more mixed. Dominique Unsworth (@DominiqueUnsworthBEM) wrote, “well done @samgyimah congrats on your new role!”

Tom Callan-Riley (@chomtallan) responded, “Oh good, another PPE-educated investment banker turned politician as minister for Universities.”

On Monday, the 8th of January, Prime Minister Theresa May also fired Justine Greening from her position as education secretary. Greening was put forward to helm the Department for Work and Pensions, but she resigned from government rather than take the job.

Greening, whose “social mobility action plan” drew ire from fellow Conservatives, was replaced by East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds.

Melissa Benn, the founder of the Local Schools Network, wrote in The Guardian that Greening’s departure was “bad news” for schools across the UK, and criticised the “prime minister’s damp squib of a reshuffle.”

Justine Greening. Photo: Chris McAndrew

Justine Greening. Photo: Chris McAndrew @Wikimedia Commons

Benn further condemned Prime Minister May of hypocrisy for forcing Greening out, whilst expanding the role of health secretary Jeremy Hunt when he refused a new offer of business secretary during the cabinet reshuffle.

Theresa May has also come under media fire for supporting the appointment of Toby Young to the board of the Office of Students. In an interview with Andrew Marr on the BBC on Sunday, the Prime Minister praised Young’s “exceedingly good work on free schools.”

After a public outcry over offensive tweets he had sent in the past, Young resigned from his position on Wednesday 9th January.

Young’s tweets were accused of being both misogynistic and classist. A petition to oust him from the universities watchdog had already gained 200,000 signatures by Monday 8th January.

In a post on The Spectator website, Young wrote: “My appointment has become a distraction from its vital work of broadening access to higher education and defending academic freedom.”