College managers now have their first set of national occupational standards - helping to put them on a par with equivalents in other sectors. Drawn up by the Further Education National Training Organisation (Fento), they are based on generic models of some of the same areas as management NVQs.
There are discrete standards for first-line, middle and senior managers, each covering areas such as finance, human resources, team and individual performance and managing quality. Managers will be able to progress to new standards once they are promoted to more senior posts.
But the Fento standards also aim to describe the skills and attributes people require to manage staff and resources effectively. Some - such as developing and sustaining a learning environment - are aimed directly at FE.
They were drawn up after extensive consultations, including trials in 14 colleges. Eventually they are exected to form the basis of the proposed qualification for college principals in England, as well as new training programmes and qualifications nationwide.
But awarding bodies and higher education institutions must wait until next year - when they should be approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Scottish Qualifications Authority - before they can offer qualifications based on the new standards. In the meantime, colleges can use them to assist with appraisal, job descriptions, recruitment, performance review and the identification of professional development needs for staff.
Veronica Windmill at Fento said they would be particularly valuable as a development tool and should strengthen management quality. "The standards reflect best practice in management in colleges and include not only what excellent managers do, but also why and how they do it," she said.