Simon Hughes takes public affairs job at Open University

Former Liberal Democrat deputy leader appointed on one-year maternity cover contract

February 15, 2016
Sir Simon Hughes, former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats

Sir Simon Hughes, the former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, is joining the Open University as head of public affairs.

The former justice minister in the last coalition government has taken on the role as maternity cover on a one-year contract.

In his new role, Sir Simon will be responsible for influencing ministers, MPs and other key policymakers, and will assist the OU’s vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks.

Sir Simon lost his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat, which he had represented since 1983, at last year’s general election.

Steve Hill, the OU’s director of external engagement, said that Sir Simon would support the university’s campaign for action to tackle the decline in part-time study.

“Part-time study has an important role to play in our country in terms of skills, social mobility and economic prosperity,” Mr Hill said. “Effective engagement with the UK government and other key influencers is therefore vital to ensure these benefits are fully realised.

“Simon brings with him a wealth of relevant experience and insight, as well as sharing our commitment to social mobility and opening up access to education.”

Sir Simon is no stranger to higher education, having advised the last government on how to stop the £9,000 tuition fee cap from adversely affecting access to university study.

He faced protests from students in the run-up to the fees vote, and declared his “long and continuing opposition” to the policy, but eventually abstained.

Later, he claimed that the coalition came close to abolishing tuition fees and replacing them with a “graduation contribution system”, but that the plan was blocked over fears that any delay in legislation would lengthen student protests.

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