Tributes paid to former FE commissioner Sir David Collins

The one-time South Cheshire College principal's contribution to further education and students was 'immense'

Stephen Exley

Tributes to former FE commisisoner Sir David Collins

Tributes have been paid to former FE commissioner and long-serving college leader Sir David Collins.

Sir David died on 14 February following a long period of illness.

He was the first FE commissioner, having held the role between 2013 and 2016. Prior to this, he spent more than four decades in the education sector.

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Sir David's first principal post was at South Cheshire College, a role he held from 1993 until 2009. During this period, he also held the post of Association of Colleges (AoC) president during 2008-09.


He was interim chief executive of the Guildford College Group from 2011 to 2012, and from 2009 to 2011 was chief executive of the former Learning and Skills Improvement Service. Prior to joining South Cheshire College, Sir David also held a variety of roles at Bolton College, Sandwell College and Redditch College.

'A wise man'

FE commissioner Richard Atkins, who succeeded Sir David, said he was a "very wise man" with "a great sense of humour, who was very smart and very positive". 

"He made a huge contribution to the FE sector over many years in a variety of roles," added Mr Atkins. "He was a very successful college principal and the first Association of Colleges president. He will obviously be remembered as the first FE commissioner, who did that role for three years and left his mark by sharing with the sector regularly what good practice looked like."

'Held in high regard'

David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said: David was held in high regard for his achievements in various colleges and in his more recent leadership roles for the sector. His passion and hard work on behalf of colleges was well known to us all. He will be a great loss to FE.

Former AoC chief executive Martin Doel, now the FETL professor of leadership in FE and skills at the UCL Institute of Education, said Sir David was “an inspiration to me and to many others”.

“His commitment and contribution to further education and its students was immense. We will miss his sharp intellect, his honesty, his infectious sense of humour and his absolute determination to do the best for students, for colleges and FE providers of all kinds, and for the communities that they support,” he added.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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