Best of times, worst of times

30th March 2001 at 01:00
'I came into further education from the private sector. I'm one of those rare people who has moved between the two.

I started off in advertising and then moved into human resources with WH Smith. Then I went to work for Chase Manhattan Bank. I left to have children and then went into a college for five or six years. I went from a part-timer to being vice-principal.

Then Chase Manhattan took me back for two-and-a-half years, but I didn't find it very worthwhile and satisfying, so I went back into FE.

It was an incredible culture shock. It was the late 1980s and colleges were still run by local authorities. I kept saying things like "What's the bottom line in terms of expenditure?" I think they thought I wasn't quite like them.

My experience of interviews has been very varied. When I joined the inspectorate at the Further Education Funding Council my interview took at most half an hour,but they had done a lot of work behind the scenes to check me out.

Contrast that to a three-day interview I had for my current post. This included a dinner where you changed position after every course, being observed in groups, single interviews, presentations, sessions with staff, students - everything you can imagine. I really was pretty fed up by the end of it. This was three days in which they started at 8am and finished at 10pm at night. I'd had it really.

My husband had told me: "Whatever you do, mention Gary Lineker. He's someone Leicester is famous for." So at my interview, I'm sitting there and the chairman said: "We've got a premier football team and a premier rugby team and we want a premier college." So I thought, here we go, I'll get my quote in. So I said: "Oh, you've got Kevin Keegan", and the room went silent.

It's still talked about today.

Martin Whittaker


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