Chris Skidmore has been fired as Universities Minister during Boris Johnson’s first post-Brexit government reshuffle.
He has been replaced by Michelle Donelan, MP for Chippenham. Donelan became an MP in May 2015, and has previously sat on the educational select committee.
The new Universities Minister will play 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 brief formerly included responsibilities for science, a priority for the new government, which has pledged to double research investment.
However, as Ms Donelan’s appointment was confirmed, it was also announced that science would be separated from the universities brief for the first time since 2009.
The Times Higher Education (THE) noted: “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.”
With the government yet to respond to the [Augar] review, [Skidmore’s] exit could prove significant in the formation of that response
– Times Higher Education
Chris Skidmore had held the post twice: between December 2018 and July 2019, and between September 2019 and today.
The Prime Minister’s brother Jo Johnson was the Universities Minister in the interim period until he resigned from the cabinet over the issue of Brexit.
Mr Skidmore played a key role in opposing the Augar review’s suggestion to cap the number of students entering higher education by ending loan access for applicants with lower grades.
He also opposed the review’s plans to cut the tuition fee cap, which many experts feared could lead to a reduction in university funding.
THE stated: “With the government yet to respond to the review, [Skidmore’s] exit could prove significant in the formation of that response.”
On social media, Mr Skidmore announced the news by tweeting a picture 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.”