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Any takers for the top spot?

The 11th-hour decision by Ioan Morgan, principal of Warwickshire College, not to become the new FE quality supremo will come as a disappointment to ministers. His creation of the 157 Group of high- performing colleges gave the Government an entity it felt it could do business with.

Mr Morgan's views are not universally shared by his fellow principals, but his appointment would have added a strong voice at the heart of the quality debate.

However, his decision to stand down - after his appointment had been announced to the press - will be welcomed by his college, which has an entrepreneurial leader whom it would presumably prefer to keep.

The new, as yet unnamed quality body results from the merger of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) and the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA). It is deeply worrying that the prospect of running some of the sector's most important organisations seems to be of so little interest. The job has also been rejected by Lynne Sedgmore and Andrew Thomson, chief executives of CEL and QIA respectively - neither of whom applied.

This is the latest in a string of positions that have been hard to fill. The Association of Colleges drew a blank in its first hunt for a chief executive, and its members had a choice of just two - albeit high-quality candidates - to become the first president. The Learning and Skills Council was forced to increase the chief executive's salary to pound;200,000 to attract the current incumbent.

The pound;150,000 salary attached to the quality job is unlikely to prove much of an enticement to the country's best principals, who already earn around this amount.

Of course, lecturers won't be losing sleep over chief executives' "low" salaries. But they should. If the sector is unwilling to pay top dollar for the top jobs, what chance is there that it will invest in its front- line staff?

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