Confusion as principal rejects pound;150,000 national post that would have put him in charge of ensuring quality in all colleges
The new FE improvement body is in turmoil before its work has even begun after the man chosen to be its first chief executive said he no longer wants the job.
Ioan Morgan has decided to turn down a salary of up to pound;150,000 for running the new Coventry-based quango in favour of remaining at Warwickshire College.
The high-profile principal, who was the first chairman of the 157 group of large, successful colleges, said he had decided to remain in a job that meant working more closely with students.
His decision left the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills baffled after he agreed to his appointment being announced and gave quotes for the press release.
At the time of the appointment, he said: "I am delighted to be able to contribute to the self-regulation of our sector and to dig deep into the rich vein of talent we have in our providers to drive up quality.
"Leadership will be at the heart of sustainable high-quality performance."
Now Mr Morgan maintains he had not formally accepted the job or signed a contract. He said: "I was offered the job, but I have only ever been the preferred candidate, I have not signed a contract.
"On reflection, I have decided that I am a college person and I don't want to go too far away from the students. I wanted to stay leading a college, a very successful one.
"It was a great honour to be the preferred candidate. But my definition of an appointment is when you sign a contract and I never said to anyone that I signed a contract.
"Right up until the point when you sign a contract, there is a period of huge reflection. It will be a huge job for someone." Mr Morgan said he had received many emails from the staff at his college in support of his decision to stay.
The about-turn is a setback for the new quango, which is intended to replace the Quality Improvement Agency and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership, in its attempt to establish credibility among colleges.
The heads of both agencies declined to apply for the new post.
Ruth Silver, chairwoman of the as yet unnamed agency, denied that the decision would delay progress and said the job had attracted many capable candidates from colleges and training organisations.
The board is due to decide how to go about recruiting an alternative chief executive this week.
Ms Silver said: "We had no idea the person who was appointed to the post would then change his mind. His chairman of governors had agreed to release him.
"His decision is about him wanting to stay in his own college. I'm disappointed because Ioan was a terrific candidate. But there was no shortage of candidates in the applications process."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said: "We regret that Ioan Morgan has made the decision not to take up the appointment, but wish him well in continuing as principal of Warwickshire College where, despite its recent success, there is still much to be done."
This is the latest of a number of senior appointments in FE that have proved hard to fill. The chief executive's position at the Learning and Skills Council was taken by Mark Haysom only after the salary was increased to attract the right calibre of candidate. The Association of Colleges had to go back to the drawing board in its hunt for a chief executive - finally appointing Martin Doel from the Ministry of Defence last month. It was forced to hold its annual conference in November without a chief executive after initially drawing a blank.
Leading article, page 4.