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New AoC president vows to fight for college freedom and fairer funding


The new president of the Association of Colleges has pledged to fight for the freedoms of FE colleges to be upheld.

Richard Atkins (pictured), principal of Exeter College, started his year-long term at AoC at the start of this month. Writing on his blog, Mr Atkins said he wanted to be an ambassador and a strong advocate for the college sector in the run-up to next year’s general election.

He said his main priorities would include campaigning for college autonomy and demanding more funding to stop "instability" in the FE sector.

After the last election the government promised to grant greater freedoms and flexibilities so colleges could better meet the needs of their local communities and businesses.

“At the last general election we argued strongly as a sector for greater autonomy and less bureaucracy and micromanagement,” said Mr Atkins. “Now that we have it back, I’ll argue that we mustn’t lose it again.”

Last year Ofsted said that while college principals welcomed the new freedoms and had started identifying priorities, there was not enough evidence of the impact their changes had made.

Mr Atkins said he also wanted to improve teaching and learning, to promote the success of the sector, and to fight for fairer funding.

"As the education sector closest to employers, we recognise the need for reducing public expenditure and recovering the national economy, but what we cannot understand or accept is why funding for colleges is cut so much more deeply than for schools or universities," he said. "This is creating instability."

Mr Atkins, who called his new role the high point of his 20-year career as a college principal, said his top priority was to visit as many regions as possible to hear members’ views, and to take their messages to ministers, policymakers and funders.

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