No min­is­ter

What next for fees after Sam Gy­imah quits?

THE (Times Higher Education) - - FRONT PAGE - John.mor­[email protected]­ere­d­u­ca­

Sam Gy­imah’s res­ig­na­tion as uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter re­moves a likely op­po­nent of a re­duc­tion in fund­ing aris­ing from Eng­land’s Au­gar re­view – but could add an­other vote to a po­ten­tial Con­ser­va­tive re­bel­lion should such a plan ever make it to Par­lia­ment.

Mr Gy­imah (pic­tured) an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion on 30 Novem­ber, say­ing that the UK’s ex­clu­sion from the Euro­pean Union’s Galileo satel­lite sys­tem ex­posed Theresa May’s Brexit deal as “naive”.

His res­ig­na­tion came as the UK started work on ne­go­ti­at­ing ac­cess to the EU’s re­search pro­gramme post-Brexit – Mr Gy­imah had been sched­uled to be in Brus­sels on the day that he stepped down – and with the gov­ern­ment’s re­view of post-18 ed­u­ca­tion in Eng­land, led by Philip Au­gar, on­go­ing.

An early draft of the re­view, or­dered by Ms May amid con­cerns over the elec­toral im­pact of the £9,250 tu­ition fee cap, sug­gests cut­ting tu­ition fees to be­tween £6,500 and £7,500 a year, The Times has re­ported.

The Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion is ar­gu­ing the case in talks with the Trea­sury that there should be no cut to the unit of re­source, the level of fund­ing per stu­dent, Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion un­der­stands. Mr Gy­imah is also said to have been push­ing to main­tain the unit of re­source – a de­mand that, in the event of a cut in fees, would re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in pub­lic spend­ing on higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Damian Hinds, the ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, is seen as likely to be loyal to Ms May on the re­view.

The new uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter – who had not yet been an­nounced as THE went to press – will be ex­pected to vote for Ms May’s pro­posed EU with­drawal agree­ment and to sup­port the Au­gar re­view, said Andy West­wood, pro­fes­sor of gov­ern­ment prac­tice at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester.

Oth­ers sug­gest that Mr Gy­imah’s exit from gov­ern­ment will add an­other prob­a­ble vote in the Com­mons against any gov­ern­ment plan to im­ple­ment any fees and fund­ing cut rec­om­mended by the Au­gar re­view – should the gov­ern­ment sur­vive long enough to in­tro­duce such a plan to Par­lia­ment.

Mr Gy­imah joins on the back benches pro-Re­main To­ries such as Jo John­son and Jus­tine Green­ing, the former uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter and ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, re­spec­tively. Both Mr John­son and Ms Green­ing were re­moved from their posts at the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion after op­pos­ing Ms May’s plan to hold a re­view, and they could be vo­cal op­po­nents of any plans to cut the level of fund­ing for stu­dents and uni­ver­si­ties.

But Pro­fes­sor West­wood ques­tioned how in­flu­en­tial a fig­ure Mr Gy­imah would have been in shap­ing the gov­ern­ment re­sponse to the re­view.

He was “quite a long way down the peck­ing or­der on any de­ci­sions, in con­trast to John­son who got to lead big re­forms [like the cre­ation of the Of­fice for Stu­dents and the teach­ing ex­cel­lence frame­work] while every­one else was look­ing the other way”, Pro­fes­sor West­wood said.

He added: “De­spite the con­tro­versy in the sec­tor, I sus­pect May is much less wor­ried about the maths of any HE votes than she is about the EU ones.”

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