Hughes began the role at the distance learning university today on a one-year contract, providing maternity cover for Laura Burley.
Leading the university's public affairs team, he will support vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks and report to the university’s director of comms, Lucian Hudson.
Director of external engagement Steve Hill 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."
Hughes was the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark for 32 years until he lost his seat at last year's general election. He held various shadow spokesman briefs including education between 1988 and 1992, before becoming justice minister in the coalition government between December 2013 and May 2015.
Separately, Lexis has announced it has been appointed by the university to support its 'Life-changing Learning' PR activities, through a "series of consumer-facing activations that support a range of brand and direct response marketing campaigns".
The work will include media, earned social media and experiential activity, the agency said.