Jo Johnson is the Universities Minister who is changing the higher education sector significantly, more than almost any other incumbent of his post. The brother of Boris and Rachel, he burst on to the national scene when in 2013 David Cameron appointed him head of policy at Number 10 to draw up the manifesto. He needed all the skill he acquired in that job to pass into law the Higher Education and Research Act just before Parliament broke up for the general election in June. The act, which was strongly resisted from left and right, has shifted the focus from the producer to the consumer interest, with a long overdue spotlight on students, including the introduction of the teaching excellence framework (TEF) to ensure universities focus on teaching as well as on research. He is emerging as a serious leadership contender after May stands down in 2019/20. Or whenever.

The Seldon List 2017


These 20 figures, ten women, ten men, encompass those who I believe are having or will have the most powerful effect on our schools and universities. Some are household names, many are not. They all should be. Education at every level is riven by major disputes, and now more so than ever. The list of 20 contains those with pungent views on these debates, which include: whether we should be educating young people to lead a good life or merely for jobs; whether a traditional academic curriculum is suitable for all and whether it is right that it fails a third or more; and whether the state or the market should be dominant in deciding the content and delivery of education.

Reducing the figures to just 20 was agonizing: a further ten at least were very close to inclusion. Next year’s table will drop 10 from here. The key factor in the selection is who is setting the agenda for education, whether leaders of individual institutions, politicians and administrators, or academics and writers.

As education affects all of us, far more than we may think, these 20 contain some of the most influential figures in the country today.

Sir Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony is one of Britain’s leading contemporary historians, educationalist, commentator and political author. Anthony Seldon is currently the Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University. He was head of Brighton College and of Wellington College, two of Britain’s leading independent schools. He is author of over 40 books on contemporary history, including the inside books on the last four Prime Ministers, politics and education, is co-founder of Action for Happiness, honorary historian to Downing Street and a Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.



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