College clerks in England are ready to defend their right to continue combining their jobs with senior management roles.
The Association of College Registrars and Administrators is warning the Learning and Skills Council not to follow the Further Education Funding Council for Wales and ban newly appointed clerks from being senior managers in the same college.
The restrictions, which apply to appointments made in Wales since October 11 last year, follow governance problems at Swansea Institute of Higher Education where the clerk was also a vice-principal. The House of Commons public accounts committee said that as clerk he was not sufficiently detached from routine management issues.
According to the association, 57 per cent of clerks in England and Wales hold senior management posts in their college. That is one of their strengths provided they can demonstrate independence from their principal when it comes to governance, argues Robin Jones, the associaton's chairman.
Mr Jones, clerk at Waltham Forest College, London, was surprised by the tough stance of the Welsh funding council, which is also insisting on approving all new clerk appointments. "I'm concerned about too much prescription," he says. "If autonomy means anything, then colleges should be able to say who they want to be their clerk."
The English funding council has never suggested it had any plans to prevent senior managers from being clerks. However, its new guide for governors, published in April, says certain roles, such as director of finance, are incompatible with being a clerk.
The National Audit Office also raised the issue in its report last year into financial irregularities at Halton College. The appointment of senior managers as clerks could "compromise the clerk's independence", it said, because of the potential for them to be influenced by the principal as their day-to-day line manager.
Special Report, pages 25-28