No 10 turmoil forces adviser’s exit and delays number controls

Iain Mansfield’s spell as key driver of policy ends – for now, at least – while ‘anti-woke’ campaigner is touted as potential education secretary

August 29, 2022
Source: iStock

Downing Street turmoil has forced the exit of a Department for Education adviser who was a key driver of higher education policy, “indefinitely delayed” plans to restrict student numbers and raised the prospect of the ultimate Tory “culture warrior” becoming secretary of state.

Amid the glut of ministerial resignations in July that forced Boris Johnson to announce his exit as prime minister, Michelle Donelan accepted a promotion from universities minister to education secretary but remained in post for only 36 hours before quitting as she joined the chorus urging Mr Johnson to go.

Ms Donelan’s move means that her adviser, Iain Mansfield, has exited the department. Mr Mansfield, a former adviser to Gavin Williamson as education secretary and before that to Lord Johnson as universities minister, is seen as the driving force in DfE ministers’ aggressive stance towards English universities – often working in tandem with hostile coverage in right-wing newspapers – over “low-value” degrees, free speech and the “woke” agenda.

Following his exit from the DfE, there are suggestions that he is hopeful of making a comeback to the department.

Sector and education policy figures suggest that Kemi Badenoch, who performed strongly in the leadership campaign after positioning herself as the “anti-woke” candidate and claiming that “some universities spend more time indoctrinating social attitudes instead of teaching lifelong skills or how to solve problems”, is seen as prime candidate to be education secretary in a government led by Liz Truss, the favourite to beat Rishi Sunak in the leadership race.

If Ms Badenoch or Ms Donelan – a vocal supporter of Ms Truss seemingly pushing for a significant post if she wins – were to secure the education secretary post, that might potentially open the door to a return for Mr Mansfield, whose cultural agenda would also chime with the former.

Meanwhile, the turmoil has delayed the DfE’s higher education policy plans. It is thought that the government was ready to respond to consultations on its plans to introduce student number controls and a minimum entry requirement just before the leadership crisis occurred, but the plans, which the Johnson government had already pledged to implement via a bill, had to be paused.

Further significant delays could potentially put in doubt the introduction of student number controls for 2024-25.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said it “now seems likely that a detailed [consultation] response is currently indefinitely delayed – it is unlikely to appear during parliamentary recess and is then unlikely to be near the top of the new PM’s in tray”.

Gordon McKenzie, chief executive of GuildHE, said: “HE reform will be one of the first things for new DfE ministers to consider. If they want something very different from their predecessors, then it’s likely to delay the introduction of the HE bill promised in the Queen’s Speech.”


Print headline: No 10 turmoil means delays and departure

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Reader's comments (1)

Surely it’s time to wave goodbye to the scurrilous Mansfield and his ilk. Why is he allowed to, and in some places venerated for, leaking unsubstantiated bile? As a medium dedicated to HE news, why doesn’t the THE actively pour cold water on such leaks and criticise them for what they are? Pulling up the ladder on those poorer than himself