George Osborne, the editor of the Evening Standard and former chancellor of the exchequer, has added a sixth job to his portfolio – that of honorary professor of economics at the University of Manchester.
On Thursday an email to staff announced that Osborne would be joining the university in an unpaid role. Starting in July, he will give a few lectures and masterclasses a year, building on his work on the “northern powerhouse” – a project to devolve the economy away from London to Manchester and the surrounding area that he initiated as chancellor three years ago.
Fellow project figureheads Lord O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist, and Sir Howard Bernstein, former Manchester city council boss, are also honorary professors.
As well as running the London daily newspaper, Osborne remains chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), a business lobby group he set up in September to boost the northern economy.
The former MP for Tatton is also an advisor to Blackrock, the American fund management firm, where he works one day a week for £650,000 per year.
Additionally he gives speeches around the world with the Washington Speakers Bureau, and is a fellow at the McCain Institute, a US thinktank.
In a statement, Osborne said he was “bowled over by this honour”. He said the University of Manchester was “at the centre of so many things [he] tried to achieve as chancellor, from the promotion of new science to the building of the links between this country and countries like China”.
Osborne described the university as “one of the jewels in the crown of the northern powerhouse”.
He said he remained committed to the idea that different communities in the north could work together “so that the whole is greater than the parts”.
“I believe more strongly than I ever did that the entire country, including our capital, would benefit from a stronger north,” he said. “That’s why I remain closely involved as chair of the NPP – and look forward to playing a part in the life of the University of Manchester.”
Announcing the decision, the university said Osborne was supportive of Greater Manchester and the university, particularly in supporting the National Graphene Institute and Henry Royce Institute as important centres for translating scientific discovery into economic growth.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Nancy Rothwell, also a member of the NPP, said: “George’s decision to accept our offer of an honorary professorship is very exciting news for the university.
“He has been a leader at the top level of UK and world economic policy for many years and showed the vision to recognise the enormous economic and scientific potential of graphene to the UK.”
Since Osborne took the helm of the Evening Standard, its coverage of Theresa May’s government has been unashamedly pugilistic. He told the Andrew Marr Show shortly after the general election that the prime minister was “a dead woman walking”.
There has long been enmity between Osborne and May, who sacked him the day after she was elected Conservative leader, telling him to “get to know the party better”.
His newspaper has repeatedly attacked the government for its stance on Brexit, especially the apparent willingness in Downing Street to control immigration at cost to the British economy.
As chancellor Osborne was an architect of austerity, the economic ideal that has come to define seven years of Conservative government. Leading economists including those from the IMF have warned that austerity policies, such as a slew of public sector cuts, can do more harm than good, an argument that has been picked up by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.
One colleague of Osborne’s told the Financial Times his appointment was a “coup” for Manchester University. “I expect [students] will turn up in their Corbyn T-shirts and he will relish in it,” the colleague said.
The University and College Union (UCU) said the University of Manchester’s appointment of Osborne was at odds with its decision to cut 171 jobs earlier this year.
UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “The University of Manchester is currently planning to axe 171 jobs and around 1,000 staff don’t know what their future holds. None of them will be reassured by the university’s decision to offer a man with five jobs something else to do.
“We hope that, as an economics professor, Mr Osborne will question how plans to slash local jobs and reduce the opportunities for students, particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, fits in with his vision for a strong northern powerhouse.”