Skidmore sacked from universities and science post in reshuffle

Boris Johnson’s shake-up ends second of two spells in post for Kingswood MP, with Andrea Leadsom also sacked as business secretary

February 13, 2020
Chris Skidmore

Chris Skidmore, the universities and science minister, has been sacked from his post as Boris Johnson reshuffles his ministerial team.

Mr Skidmore announced the news by tweeting pictures of his baby daughter: “Got a promotion in the #reshuffle to be a better dad with more time to spend with this gorgeous little one…Thanks everyone who I’ve had the chance to work with and the civil service teams that have supported me – you have all been amazing.”

The Kingswood MP had two spells in the junior ministerial post, interrupted by the short-lived return of Jo Johnson to the brief. The first was between December 2018 and July 2019; the second from September 2019 until today.

Also sacked in the reshuffle was Andrea Leadsom, the secretary of state in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is responsible for research funding.

Mr Skidmore was regarded as having played a key role in opposing moves by the Augar review – at one stage expected to figure in its final report to government – to in effect cap the number of students entering higher education by ending loan access for applicants with lower grades.

He was also an opponent of the Augar review’s plans to cut the tuition fee cap for English universities, which many in the sector fear could lead to a reduction in university funding. With the government yet to respond to the review, his exit could prove significant in the formation of that response.

Mr Skidmore, who backed remain in the European Union referendum, would also have played a key role in talks with the EU on whether the UK will join the bloc’s next research programme, Horizon Europe, as an associated country.

The science brief, in particular, is a key one for the new government, which has pledged to double research investment. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, regards science as a priority in shaping a post-Brexit economy and is a key influence on government science policy.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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