A PRINCIPAL says much of his success in turning round the fortunes of a Welsh college is down to devolved government.
Huw Evans, who was awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours list, runs a very different Coleg Llandrillo Cymru to the one he inherited when he was appointed in 1989.
Wales voted for devolution in 1997, with the National Assembly being given powers in 1999.
These changes, while falling short of allowing Wales to raise its own tax revenue, have brought about a more dynamic approach to post-16 education, he argues.
When he took over in 1989 the college had 2,000 students. There are now 22,000. Away from the main campus at Rhos-on-Sea, in north Wales, are other centres including three community colleges at Denbigh, in a converted butter market, Abergele and Rhyl.
The college, founded in 1965, is now one of the largest in Wales, having expanded to offer degree courses and higher diploma programmes.
Its patch, the counties of Denbyshire and Conway, boasts the highest participation rates in Wales according to the latest census data. And this has been achieved despite the fact that this part of Wales has some of the worst deprivation in the country.
Mr Evans said: "I am encouraged by what is happening in Wales. There are lots of things which are being done differently here, such as the Assembly maintenance grant for students, a very different response on pay to what is happening in England, and the use of credits to create flexible learning.
"There are lots of advantages to being in Wales. In many ways I think we have become the most progressive part of the UK.
"We have set up a network of three community colleges around us and we work in partnership with secondary schools.
"The idea is that no one should be more than 15 minutes away from a learning centre."
The college's department of learning communities has also been running taster sessions in pubs and other easily accessible locations.
Sheila Jones, the department's manager, said: "We expect to run taster courses within each of the target communities, with progression available into further courses."