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New AOC president: 'Colleges are facing a tide of change'

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The new president of the Association of Colleges (AoC) has vowed to “reconnect” with the values of colleges.

Writing on the AoC website John Widdowson, principal of New College Durham, says colleges are “facing a tide of change” and the next year will be “critical” for the sector.

Mr Widdowson, who has been a college principal for more than 16 years, says he wants to focus on three areas: meeting with and seeking to influence policy makers to make the case for colleges; pointing out the success of colleges, and reconnecting with the values of colleges.

On the last point, he writes: “At the heart of our sector is that we are there for our students. 

“We all know FE colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers.

“We prepare over three million students with valuable skills for the workplace, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy. 

“I will be working to drum this into policy makers over the next year to ensure they understand the benefits of a strong further education system.”

Colleges are facing an uncertain future following a series of cuts to adult education and the announcement of area-based reviews, which could lead to “fewer, larger” providers.

Mr Widdowson says it is time for colleges to start talking about their successes and make sure politicians know what the sector is capable of.

“Instead of hiding our light under a bushel, we should be repeating our achievements time and time again, locally and nationally,” he says. 

“We should be highlighting college strengths and successes, showing the impact we make to our students, to our communities and to the wider economy.”

Mr Widdowson, who began his career in further education in 1988 and has held a variety of college posts across the country, took over as AoC president on August 1 from Richard Atkins, who he describes as “outstanding”.



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