Last night at a fringe meeting hosted by ResPublica at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Universities and Science Minister Greg Clark MP was introduced by the chair:
Chair: “His main duties are as Minister for Cities and delivering devolution, he’s also now taken on responsibility for universities but his passion is cities.”
Greg Clark: nods “It’s really by accident universities have got involved in LEPS and my cities initiatives.”
So not only does our Minister view universities an accidental add-on to his existing brief on cities, he also agrees that it’s not his real passion.
In one sentence, Clark confirmed the worst fears of the sector – i.e. that his appointment was merely down to the quirks of government reshuffle. But to then to compound that situation and declare that universities and science are not as interesting to him as cities is unforgivable.
And there’s really no reason at all for it to be a zero-sum game. From a policy perspective there are lots of interesting ways in which universities, cities, growth and devolution can and should be tied together – particularly in the context of the current wider debates about the future shape of the UK.
But sadly our accidental universities minister just isn’t all that interested.