Education & Family

Simon Hughes to join Open University

Simon Hughes
Image caption Sir Simon Hughes has joined the Open University

Sir Simon Hughes, former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, is taking up a post with the Open University.

He is to become the university's head of public affairs for one year, covering for maternity leave.

Sir Simon, who served as justice minister during the coalition, will represent the university in areas such as dealing with government.

The OU's Steve Hill said "effective engagement" with the government and "key influencers" was "vital".

Sir Simon was a longstanding MP for Bermondsey in south London, winning a by-election in 1983 and remaining as MP until losing in last year's general election.

As a prominent Liberal Democrat, Sir Simon had faced strong criticism from student leaders during protests over the increase in tuition fees in England to £9,000, when the party had pledged to oppose any rise in fees.

Sir Simon eventually abstained in the fees vote in the House of Commons.

He is now joining the Open University, which has been campaigning for more support for part-time students and greater recognition of the economic and social value of part-time university courses.

The university, which also created the online learning platform Futurelearn, wants to reverse the significant decline in part-time and mature students.

Steve Hill, the Open University's director of external engagement, said: "Part-time study has an important role to play in our country in terms of skills, social mobility and economic prosperity.

"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."