20th May 2016 at 00:00
Coming off the Doel

Difficult shoes to fill

Who will be succeeding Martin Doel at the helm of the Association of Colleges? This question is taking a little longer to answer than had been expected.

It was announced in November that the AoC’s chief executive would be stepping down to become professor of FE and skills at the Further Education Trust for Leadership. He started his new role at the thinktank on a part-time basis last month, alongside his AoC duties, and is due to take it up full-time from September.

The AoC top job was advertised in January. The association, the advert said, was looking for “an exceptional leader to take the college sector’s agenda forward”; a candidate with “a passion for enriching lives through learning, a track record of success and the capability to influence at a national level”.

That’s quite some wish list. And it seems to have proven difficult to find a candidate who fits the bill for what is arguably the biggest job in FE. Despite no shortage of applicants, none was deemed to be up to scratch, prompting the AoC to readvertise the position.

Plenty of senior figures in FE have told FErret that they reckon the salary of around £135,000 – a figure dwarfed by the pay on offer for chief executives at dozens of the biggest colleges in the country – may have put some candidates off. It is reportedly less than the figure that was touted when the 157 Group was recruiting its new chief executive last year.

But an AoC insider told FErret that the association was still pretty calm – after all, the position had to be advertised twice before it was filled last time around. Interviews with the second wave of shortlisted candidates were due to be held this week. Here’s hoping it proves to be second time lucky.

Graduating with honours

Tensions between the further and higher education sectors have become increasingly strained since TES revealed in March that Teesside University was to stop accrediting degrees offered by 10 partner colleges.

Such a move to halt accreditation is no longer a concern for Writtle College. The land-based college currently offers degrees that are validated by the University of Essex. But students beginning courses from September 2017 will graduate with a degree from Writtle itself, after it was awarded university college status.

From August, it will be known as Writtle University College. FErret wonders if, especially given this week’s White Paper, more colleges with a strong HE offering may be tempted to make similar moves.

Don’t go bacon my heart

Meanwhile, disaster has been averted at another land-based college. Vegan animal care student Izzy Ross was appalled when she was told by tutors at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale that four little piggies used to train students would soon end up in the frying pan. She managed to persuade college officials to save the porkers’ bacon, and it was agreed that they would be rehomed rather than being given the chop.

But the college has insisted that this will not set a precedent. It told the Manchester Evening News: “Although these four pigs are being rehomed, the college will continue with the raising of livestock for food production next year.”

Hmm. FErret fears that there may be truffles ahead if Hopwood Hall continues with this policy. It could well be that the college has never made a rasher decision.

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