UK gov’t reshuffle “welcomed” by sector

 In News

UK PM Rishi Sunak began the week with a reshuffle of his cabinet, ousting home secretary Suella Braverman – whose replacement James Cleverly has been “welcomed” by stakeholders.

In a letter sent to the PM after she was sacked, she said he gave “firm assurances” which were then not met on key policy priorities, including “reforming the international student route”.

Braverman is thought to be responsible for introducing the ban on postgraduate-taught students bringing dependents with them to the UK from January 2024. It is unclear whether other plans were on the table.

In her place, James Cleverly, the former Foreign Secretary has been put into the role. Independent HE’s chief executive, Alex Proudfoot, said the appointment was “welcomed” by the organisation.

In his two-month stint as Education secretary in July to September 2022, Cleverly demonstrated a “collegiate manner” and a “constructive approach” to working with the sector, as well as an interest in listening to different perspectives, Proudfoot said.

“All of these qualities should serve him well as he gets to grips with one of the most complex and difficult briefs in Westminster.

“More recently as Foreign secretary he will doubtless have experienced first hand the goodwill and influence that our globally admired education sector generates in the relationships we have around the world,” he added.

Cleverly recently made a trip to Japan and agreed a large expansion of the youth mobility scheme to the UK as part of his work in the role.

The replacement for Cleverly – in an unexpected move by Sunak – is former prime minister David Cameron, who has had run-ins with the UK education sector due to the coalition government’s decision to raise tuition fees in 2012. It was also during his leadership when the post-study work pathway was ended.

Cameron’s first port of call in the new role was to meet his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, where they talked about meeting the ambition of the UK-India 2030 roadmap – a migration and mobility MoU, which included points about the movement of international students, was signed in 2021.

“The Foreign Secretary and Dr Jaishankar also discussed progressing a free trade agreement and partnerships on defence, science and technology,” a FCDO spokesperson said, which could possibly involve discussions on research partnerships between the two countries.

In 2012, there was speculation as to whether Cameron would reconsider including international students in the net migration figures, but the move was never made by the government.

Cameron also famously sought close ties with China, in a time which was dubbed a “Golden Era” for the two countries’ relations in 2015.

But as relations between China and the UK have deteriorated – especially over issues with possible influence on education and research – it may come as a challenge for Cameron to tailor his approach to the current state of affairs.

“David Cameron will find Parliament has changed a lot when it comes to China,” said Alicia Kearns, Tory chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in an interview with Bloomberg.

“Relations with China are our foremost challenge and he is going to have quite a challenge getting foreign policy into the place where it needs to be going forward.”

For the new home secretary, all sector eyes will be on how he approaches his new position and works to develop policies that help the industry and not hinder it with more reductive policies.

“We welcome the appointment of James Cleverly as home secretary and look forward to working with him to develop and promote policies that recognise the enormous contribution international students and staff make to the country,” Russell Group chief executive Tim Bradshaw told The PIE.

“We hope he will champion the role universities play in our economy and society”

“We hope he will champion the role universities play in our economy and society and will support efforts to ensure the UK can remain competitive, attracting the best talent with a supportive visa system and helping to grow the UK’s position as a global HE powerhouse.”

UKCISA chief executive Anne-Marie Graham also echoed the welcome of the new home secretary, saying, “We and others across the sector will ensure that [Cleverly] is fully informed on the benefits of international students so that he is able to make decisions in conjunction with his ministers.

“We look forward to working with him to ensure that international students have a positive experience studying in the UK,” she added.

Proudfoot warned that the Home Office was an essential part of protecting and supporting the sector and international student interest, as well as maintaining global competitiveness despite the recent policy changes made by Braverman in the post.

“The new home secretary has the power to maximise these immense benefits that the UK receives from hosting and educating so many talented students from around the world.

“He should certainly take the opportunity of his appointment to consider whether recent policy decisions represent what is in the UK’s best interests or perhaps may need revisiting,” Proudfoot urged.

The post UK gov’t reshuffle “welcomed” by sector appeared first on The PIE News.

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