Chief stays just nine months

28th August 2009 at 01:00
Nothing `sinister' about resignation, as second chief executive sought after sudden departure

Scotland's colleges, the voice of management in further education, is looking for its second chief executive in nine months with the sudden departure of Chris Travis from the post "with immediate effect".

Insiders say there is nothing "sinister" about his resignation from the job he only took up in December last year, although there are suggestions he and the board had differences over the nature of his role.

"Chris has decided to leave and the board has agreed to his going" was the straightforward analysis of a senior figure in the organisation. An interim chief executive will now be appointed.

Mr Travis had to share the leadership of Scotland's Colleges. On some issues, the official voice was the chair of the principals' group, currently held by Linda McTavish of Anniesland College in Glasgow. The responsibility for the political side of the organisation, including the increasingly crucial promotion of colleges' interests in Parliament lay, with Neil Cuthbert, its public affairs manager. The board is chaired by Christina Potter, principal of Dundee College.

The official statement from Scotland's Colleges implied that Mr Travis had been hired to do a specific job, which was now complete. This was the merger of the four constituent parts of the organisation - the Association of Scotland's Colleges, the Scottish Further Education Unit, Scotland's Colleges International and the Colleges Open Learning Exchange Group (Coleg).

There were particularly complex pensions issues involved in bringing the staff of all the organisations together, which included protracted negotiations with the Scottish Funding Council. Mr Travis oversaw the final integration of the four bodies.

Ms Potter said: "The fact that what has been a challenging transition has been achieved smoothly is testament to Chris's skill and patience. With the merger now completed, the board and Chris agree that this is an appropriate time for him to move on and we wish him every success in the future."

This was not the message when Mr Travis was appointed. He would be responsible for "managing" the new merged body, the announcement said, not simply tasked with bringing it about. Not only would he be responsible for implementing the new structure, the statement continued, but for "ensuring its effectiveness".

Mr Travis, who was previously chief executive of Enterprise North East Trust, said of his departure from Scotland's Colleges: "It has been a very challenging and rewarding time."

He paid tribute to the sector, adding: "Scotland is particularly well served by her colleges which have a crucial and pivotal role to play in helping Scotland fight the recession.

"I believe it is hugely important that colleges continue to do everything possible to provide people with opportunities to build the skills needed to support Scotland's economic recovery, and I wish them well in doing that."

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