King’s says in a statement that Mr Willetts, who stepped down as a minister before July’s reshuffle, “will work with the Policy Institute at King’s” but will “have a college-wide remit”.
Ed Byrne, the King’s president, said he would “personally greatly value” Mr Willetts’ “insights on current and future strategic opportunities and challenges and how best to position King’s in the evolving higher education environment”.
He will be “engaged in a range of activities, including teaching, and will undertake research for his forthcoming book on higher education”, King’s adds in its statement.
The former minister “will initially teach on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the Department of Political Economy across the fields of political theory, political economy and comparative public policy, and also contribute to master’s programmes in the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine”, the college continues.
While Mr Willetts is highly regarded by many in higher education, his appointment may not be welcomed by all staff and students at King’s.
As universities minister he oversaw the trebling of fees to £9,000 and the slashing of direct public funding for teaching, and several of his visits to universities were disrupted by student protestors during his time in office.
He was scheduled to give the JD Bernal lecture at Birkbeck, University of London in October 2012 – but the event was cancelled following suggestions that students planned to protest at government higher education policy.
At one stage prior to this summer’s reshuffle, Mr Willetts was on the prime minister’s shortlist for the job as the UK’s EU commissioner, but David Cameron eventually opted for Lord Hill.
Mr Willetts’ appointment at King’s had been expected, as Times Higher Education reported earlier this month.
Jonathan Grant, director of the Policy Institute at King’s, said Mr Willetts “brings vast experience of higher education, policy making and parliamentary process, business and innovation and a focus on the impact agenda. Our students and staff will benefit greatly from his knowledge and wisdom.”
The former minister told THE after stepping down that he was keen to write a “proper book about universities”.
“It won’t exactly be a memoir,” he said, “but given that I have been in opposition and in government working on university policy for almost a decade…I hope I’ve got one or two observations that might be worth recalling.”