Would Sir Alan have the staying power?

15th February 2008 at 00:00

It is clearly important that the best talent is attracted to our colleges at all levels, and Lifelong Learning UK's plans to encourage chief executives from the private sector to apply for posts as principals and heads of training providers seems not unreasonable.

What is not so apparent, however, is how many will cope with the diverse demands of the job - so clearly set out in LLUK's role specification for principals - or who will be willing to undertake the "learning journey" on the recently introduced principals qualifying programme.

Colleges are not businesses, although they need to be run in a business- like manner. Those who run them also need to be able to demonstrate academic leadership and a high degree of political skill, as well as being able to balance a competitive element with the need for collaboration and partnership. They also have to take on fully the equality and diversity agenda.

The Sir Alan Sugars of this world may well be hired - if they are prepared to take on the substantially reduced salary package on offer - but how long they would last is an entirely different matter.

Dr David Collins CBE, Principal South Cheshire College, new president of the Association of Colleges.

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