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Fill-in boss for quality quango

Temporary leader appointed as salary rises to pound;200,000 to attract the right candidate

The new FE improvement body has appointed a stopgap chief executive after it was spurned by its first choice. Sue Dutton, acting chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), is being seconded to the new quango after Ioan Morgan, the Warwickshire College principal, backed out of taking the pound;150,000-a-year job.

She will draw up the strategic plan for the agency, which is intended to be a college-led replacement for the Quality Improvement Agency and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership.

Her role begins in May and is expected to last four to six months, while the process to find a permanent chief executive is repeated. It is understood the agency would be prepared to pay up to pound;200,000-a-year for the right candidate.

Ms Dutton said she wants the new agency - the name will be chosen after consultation with colleges - to give FE the same control over its affairs as universities enjoy.

"The new organisation will be sector-funded and sector-owned," she said. "I want to make sure the sector takes ownership for quality and development, in a way that will be more like higher education.

"There is a lot more autonomy in the way in which they organise themselves and build their relationship with government."

Ms Dutton, whose hobbies include contemporary art and palaeontology, began her career in retail fashion before taking a job lecturing in marketing. From there, she worked in higher education as a human resources director and eventually joined the AoC as deputy chief executive when it was founded in 1997.

Dame Ruth Silver, chairwoman of the new agency, said: "She is a key figure in the drive towards self-regulation and has a great wealth of experience in further education."

The new quality body is one of a number of FE organisations that have struggled to find a leader.

The AoC was forced back to square one after drawing a blank in its hunt for a replacement for chief executive, John Brennan, who left in June last year. Ms Dutton is understood not to have applied for the post, despite having a high profile as his deputy.

It has now appointed Ministry of Defence training chief Martin Doel as its chief executive. He is due to be in place before Ms Dutton makes the move.

The new quality body will occupy a crowded FE environment, being required to forge relationships with two funding quangos and local education authorities, as colleges move into a new funding regime that gives more power to local authorities.

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