Controversial former principal 'excited' by new appointment

4th September 2009 at 01:00
Sudden departure of chief executive puts Ray Harris in the driving seat at Scotland's Colleges

A controversial former college principal has been appointed to take the helm at Scotland's Colleges while the organisation searches for a new chief executive.

It has chosen Ray Harris as interim chief executive to take over from Chris Travis, whose sudden departure from the post "with immediate effect" was announced last week.

Dr Harris, 61, has just retired as principal of Edinburgh's Telford College after seven years. Prior to that, he had held the same job at Stevenson College Edinburgh. Both tenures were marked by hostile relations with the lecturers' union and periods of strike action.

An academic statistician by profession, Surrey-born Dr Harris said he was "extremely excited" by his new job. "With the merger of the four sector bodies successfully completed, the organisation must now look forward and outward," he added.

"It will be my task to set strategic objectives for the new organisation, and to ensure that all involved play a full role in their achievement."

Scotland's Colleges is now a merged body comprising the Association of Scotland's Colleges, the Scottish Further Education Unit, Scotland's Colleges International and the Colleges Open Learning Exchange Group (Coleg).

Christina Potter, chair of the board of Scotland's Colleges, was fulsome in her welcome for Dr Harris. He had "a wealth of hands-on experience, having been an outstanding and innovative principal at one of the country's largest colleges".

She added: "With many opportunities, as well as significant challenges, facing the college sector at this time, we are extremely fortunate to have been able to secure the services of someone of Ray's ability and standing."

Dr Harris is the second acting chief executive which Scotland's Colleges has had in the past year, with Howard McKenzie holding the reins before the arrival of Mr Travis. But Dr Harris will be able to devote himself to the job full-time: Mr McKenzie had to share it with his "day job" as principal of Jewel and Esk College in the Lothians, from which he has since stepped down.

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