Powerful new FE Commissioner announced

Powerful new FE Commissioner announced

A former principal and ex-president of the Association of Colleges has been appointed as the government’s first FE Commissioner.

Dr David Collins CBE, also a former interim chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, will take the new troubleshooter post which comes with the power to call for the closure of failing colleges.

He was principal of South Cheshire College Group for 16 years from 1993, before serving the same post in an interim capacity at Guildford College Group for 2011/12.

Dr Collins said: “I would hope to bring my extensive experience in the sector to bear in this new post so that problems in colleges and other institutions are swiftly addressed for the benefit of learners, employers and the local community.

“I have worked closely with governors and staff in the past in colleges and institutions that have received a variety of Ofsted grades and have always found a positive response to quality improvement.

“I am sure that all those involved in this new approach will play their full part in ensuring that, in the interests particularly of learners and stakeholders, difficulties are quickly and effectively resolved and the quality of provision is significantly improved.”

The FE Commissioner will be sent in if a college is graded inadequate by Ofsted, is in financial trouble or is failing to hit learner success targets.

He will report directly to Ministers with the aim of turning the college around within a year.

He could call for institutions to be slapped with ‘Administered College’ status, thereby losing powers over staff changes, expenditure or transfer of assets.

Dr Collins could also recommend governors be kicked out, but ultimately he could also call for a college to be dissolved.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “David’s 35 years of experience, including leading an outstanding college, mean that he fully understands the sector and the levels of excellence that can be achieved.

“I look forward to working with David to reach our shared goal of an FE system that offers rigorous and stretching training while responding to the needs of students, employers and the economy.”

The role of the FE Commissioner — a two-year fixed term contract — is set out in Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills (April 2013).

The commissioner can call on the support of a team of advisers, who have already been appointed.

Dr Collins’ team of advisers includes Marilyn Hawkins, chair of the 157 Group for 2011/12, and Malcolm Cooper, managing director and owner of MCA Cooper associates, which advises FE providers on finance and general management issues.

Lynn Forrester, director of Quality4fe, which is part of the FE Solutions confederation, and David Williams, director at education management consultancy W3 Advisory Limited, complete the team of FE Commissioner advisers along with Joanna Gaukroger, director of J2J Partnership Limited and former principal of Tower Hamlets College and Kensington and Chelsea College.