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Invasion of the businessmen

Don Short Agony Uncle answers your questions

Q: I recently applied for a senior management post at the college where I have worked for 20 years. With bags of experience and in-depth knowledge of the college, I felt the job was mine. But they gave it to someone from the outside with no experience of teaching, or of managing in the sector.

I was incredulous. I have asked for feedback on this decision but no one seems to want to give me any. I feel utterly demoralised. I do not feel that someone from outside education is best suited for this type of job.

One colleague commented that I should have thought twice before I joined a one-day strike a few years ago.

A: At the very least you should have got some feedback. As a higher education student 18 years ago at a London art college, I remember vividly the anger among the lecturers at the introduction of "outside" managers. It was no coincidence that the college was in the middle of a merger in which the courses it offered changed dramatically. Today, it is reported that there are not enough like you applying for senior posts, hence the need to look elsewhere. The other view is that "outsiders" bring the right balance of pragmatism and ambition to a sector that is increasingly concerned with providing skills for industry at the expense of all else.

In these pages last month, Graham Fowler tentatively voiced his concern that this may be all part of a plot to exert greater centralisation and repeats the same argument I heard 18 years ago in the staff bar, namely that only those with educational experience can and should manage educational institutions.

This presupposes that education is the priority, but is it? FE today is first and foremost a business with clients, not students; and driven by targets and market forces, not Ruskin-inspired ideals.

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