Jo Johnson gave what I think is his first high profile speech a Minister for Higher Education yesterday at the British Council’s Going Global conference.
Full text of the speech can be found here.
Most it is blandly welcome, much as you’d expect from a new minister. Important to note the very warm words about “rolling out the red carpet for the brightest and best” and emphasising the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to this. But again we’ve heard all that before.
Reading the text closely though, I wonder if there is a subtle and important shift noted in this paragraph:
It is also right that we have reformed the student visa system to ensure that students who are not genuine cannot abuse the system. And we will take proportionate action to deal with overstaying wherever our new system of exit checks shows it to be an issue.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this Is softer language than appeared in the manifesto and sort of implies that the focus will be on making the recently introduced system of exit checks work and checking whether/where there are problems before imposing a new draconian set of regulations on to Universities.
Ever the optimist . . .
UPDATE: David Cameron announced yesterday that he will be setting up a series of “Implementation Task Forces” to oversee delivery of key Government policies. There’s been a lot of media attention paid to the fact that he himself will chair the Immigration Task Force rather than Theresa May. What’s more interesting is the Terms of Reference:
Delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands; controlling migration from the European Union, including through reforming welfare rules and reducing reliance on migrant labour; ensuring that there is a hostile environment for illegal immigrants at work, in housing, and in accessing services; clamping down on the exploitative employers and landlords who make it possible for migrants to undercut local workers; enhancing UK border security, and ensuring that visitors and immigrants who come to the UK contribute to growth.
No mention of student controls. Again, maybe I’m being overoptimistic . . .