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Quest for the right leader

Feeling is growing among principals that an outsider should be chosen to head the new merged association representing colleges.

Calls are being made for a college principal to become chief executive of the organisation formed from the union this summer of the Association for Colleges and the Colleges' Employers' Forum.

Several principals are known to have asked Colin Flint, principal of Solihull College and a major figure in the further education sector, to put his name forward for the post.

Mr Flint is understood to be considering entering the running. But the move would put him in competition with Ruth Gee, the AFC chief executive, and a close ally.

Ms Gee and her CEF counterpart Roger Ward are the only candidates known to be in pursuit of the leadership. But many principals say a fresh face is needed, untainted by old rivalries.

Some believe former AFC chairman Michael Austin will join the race, but colleagues believe he does not wish to take on the role.

Exeter College principal John Capey, another prominent figure heading a large and successful college, is named by some fellow chief executives as another possible contender.

One principal, who admitted he could bring few possible names to mind, said: "We want somebody with the ideas of Ruth and the energy and ideas of Roger. "

Colin Flint has also been pressed to step into the hot seat vacated by Further Education Funding Council chief executive Sir William Stubbs, though he is unlikely to wish to take on the role.

However, many in the sector are wondering why there is so little expectation that a principal will head the FEFC, when university vice-chancellors are considered potential candidates to run higher education funding.

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