Raconteur's final chapter

After 30 years in the business, the death of Ian Macwhinnie leaves a void in FE. Ian Nash reports

Tributes are pouring in for Ian Macwhinnie, one of further education's "great champions" who died last month, aged 58, after a two-year fight against cancer.

His 30-year career began in Kingsway and Tottenham colleges and culminated with the creation of the College of North East London. He remained principal and chief executive to the end, supervising the recent pound;23 million development, even through bouts of ill-health.

Nicky Harrison, former local authority employers' leader and chair of governors at the college, said: "Ian was widely respected across adult education and FE. He will be greatly missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him."

While his first passion was running the college and securing resources for those who were disadvantaged and in greatest need, Ian proved a formidable influence in the local and national political arenas. He was president of the Association for College Management in 1995, remaining on the national council until his death.

His career included four years as an officer for the Inner London Education Authority. He served on various national committees of regional examining boards and the Association of Colleges, and was a vociferous member of the Further Education Funding Council and consultative bodies set up by the Government Office for London.

On the social scene he was something of a raconteur and always among the last to retire to bed at conferences. When a scurrilous newspaper diary item accused the ACM officers of bingeing until five in the morning, he dismissed it as "nonsense".

"If they had been, I would have been there," he said. "Journalists should get their facts right. The last of us retired to bed at 3.15am."

Nadine Cartner, ACM education officer, said: "One of the things I most admired about Ian was the way he could always achieve a balance between taking on board the political realities, while holding steadfast to his fundamental values."

Those who worked with him said it made him a formidable opponent to politicians who wanted the new breed of principals to toe the line when control of colleges was taken away from local education authorities. While remaining a staunch advocate of independence, he made it clear he would not kowtow to the Tory line.

David Watkins, principal of Carshalton College, was a personal friend and professional colleague. "Those of us who knew Ian will remember a talented man with an enviable intellect, far-reaching vision and boundless energy. I will never forget Ian's strong commitment to social justice.

"He has been an excellent boss, an outstanding mentor - someone who has taught me much of what I know about the job I do, a fellow council member of the ACM and, above all, a great mate."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you