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Praise for tailor-made managerial programme

ALL the words by management gurus in tomes which adorn the shelves of bookshops counted for nothing when Maggie Karwat started studying how to supervise college staff.

"Everything related to managing people in a business or industrial environment," said Ms Karwat, market development manager at City College Manchester and one of the first people to gain a post-graduate diploma aimed at current and aspiring FE managers.

A trained secondary school teacher, Ms Karwat left education and worked for three different software firms before turning to IT lecturing at City College about ten years ago. When she enrolled for the diploma in 1999, she wanted to do more than just learn to manage - she wanted to become a good FE manager.

"There is no organisation quite like a college," she said. "In a business environment, you pick up a phone and people are by their desk. Teachers may not pick up your messages for a week and don't always have time to look at e-mails. You have to adapt the way that you manage people."

A consortium of ten colleges in North-west England run the FE management diploma, accredited by the University of Liverpool. Fifty staff have so far gained the qualification, which this year won the pound;4,200 TESACM-sponsored Beacon Award for staff development.

The idea of a diploma for college managers was dreamed up four years ago when Clive Cairns, manager of City College's human resource development unit, was returning to Manchester by train with Lynda Sinkinson, director of learning and quality at Bury College.

Having attended a meeting in London to discuss training opportunities for FE managers, both agreed that, with support from other colleges, they could run a tailor-made programme that was as good - if not better - than was being proposed elsewhere.

A steering group of staff from the colleges within a 50-mile radius devised modules on policy and planning, people, resources and managing information.

Most lecturers face some sort of management responsibility, even if only in helping to recruit and retain students, said Ms Sinkinson. "Programmes like this equip them with skills even if they don't want to go into a management position."

With about 30 "students" joining the two-year programme every September, each college has about three places. Priority is normally given to existing managers, with remaining places for aspiring staff.

Sue Taylor, curriculum manager at Accrington and Rossendale College and a member of the steering group, said: "Many managers were saying that they had been promoted into management posts on the strength of being a good teacher. They didn't have management skills."

Staff were adamant they did not want a competency-based qualification, such as a national vocational qualification, said Ms Sinkinson. "I had put people through the Management Charter Initiative. It was just generating paper for the sake of it."

Modules are assessed through 5,000-word assignments which candidates select from their day-to-day workload. Karen Coupe, marketing team leader at Accrington and Rossendale, drew up a business plan for her department in order to gain the module on policy and planning.

"As far as marketing in education is concerned, there is nothing out there on the market," she said. "You have to do your own questionnaire and find the answers for yourself."

Each month, candidates must attend a three-hour session led by an expert speaker, normally from a college in the consortium. No more than 10 per cent of sessions are led by outside speakers, helping to keep the cost down to pound;400 per candidate (paid for by their college).

As half the candidates were non-teachers, Karen Coupe found the sessions an excellent way of networking among teachers and support staff. She found the people module especially helpful: "It made me think about my own personality and how I come over to people."

Three-quarters of those enrolling for the diploma are women, while eight of the 27 candidates who gained it last summer have already gone on to study for a masters degree in education management.

Although she has no immediate plans to do a masters course, Maggie Karwat believes it was important to gain a diploma rather than just undergo training. In addition to attending the monthly sessions, she estimates that she spent five or six hours per week studying. "I wouldn't have done it without the qualification. I enjoyed it because it was related to what I wanted to do," she said. "While it was time-consuming, it was never particularly a chore."

The diploma has helped her to focus on strategy in her role as market development manager, where her responsibilities include reviewing City College's programmes for 16 to 19-year-olds. "It has enabled me to convert from doing things on an operational level to thinking about where we are going in the future," she said.

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