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No jobs for the boys as governors

Two leading college organisations have dismissed fears that governing bodies offer jobs for the boys, revealing colleges are struggling simply to find enough candidates.

In a joint submission to the Nolan Committee on standards in public life this week, the Colleges' Employers' Forum and the Association for Colleges refute suggestions being examined by the inquiry that existing corporation members are able to select new recruits to shape governing bodies.

The submission says: "For many governing bodies it is not easy to find suitable individuals willing to serve" - a direct contradiction of evidence given to the Commons Public Accounts Committee this summer by Sir Tim Lankester, the then permanent secretary to the Department for Education.

The CEF and AFC point to an increasing tendency by colleges to remedy the problem by setting up search committees to seek members. They resist any move towards more external control over selecting members, claiming it could undermine corporations' professionalism and make attracting committed people still more difficult.

Claims by the two organisations that existing measures to ensure openness and accountability on college boards are adequate are countered by a submission from the lecturers' union NATFHE.

The union claims current selection procedures have allowed governing bodies to become "narrow and self-perpetuating", resulting in a loss of faith on the part of the public, staff and students.

It suggests evidence exists in both further and higher education of dissenting voices being excluded.

John Akker, NATFHE general secretary, dubbed present arrangements for governing colleges "dangerous and damaging", saying secretive decision-making could lead to abuses of power.

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