The rise to the position of chair at Burton and South Derbyshire College was relatively smooth for Everton Burke, but he wants to see more people from black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) join college boards.

I became a governor in a college of Further Education (FE) because I wanted to give something back to FE after some 26 years of full time employment in the sector and to make a positive contribution to it.

I would like to be able to take credit for that statement, but the truth is those words were put into my mouth by a close friend who is also a principal and chief executive of a college.

Up until that point I had never considered or been encouraged to become a governor. I thought about it and decided to have a look at what the role of a governor encompassed, including the time commitment as I was a busy person already.

I requested, was sent and completed the relevant application form and duly met with the search committee of the college, which was comprised of the chair of governors, a governor, the clerk to the governing body and the principal and chief executive.

I was asked supplementary questions to my application form, including the question of my commitment to the role and to that particular college.

Within a couple of days, I was informed by the clerk that the search committee would recommend my application to the full corporation at the next meeting and I would be informed of their decision soon thereafter.

I was delighted to receive the good news that my application was approved and I was now a college governor.

I was welcomed at my first meeting by the chair of governors and all the other members present and then we got straight on with the meeting.

I recall the chair offering me the opportunity to contribute to the meeting even though it was my first meeting, but he also said that I shouldn’t feel pressured to speak at my first meeting. I remember thinking ‘I like this chair’.

With my long experience of curriculum, as a former lecturer, I was offered a seat on the standards committee at the second full corporation meeting, which I accepted.

FE needs lots more diversity in the composition of its corporations


At the third and final standards Committee meeting for the academic year I was persuaded to become the vice chair and a year later I was its chair.

A year later I was very surprised and humbled to be voted in as the new chair of governors albeit in the sad circumstance of the death of the chair following a short illness.

I was very surprised because I was one of four black, asian, minority ethnic (BAME) members in a mainly white college from students, to staff, to governors.

I believe that I got the position as their chair because they felt positive about me becoming their new leader.

From new governor to chair in just under three years is something that I am very proud of.

I have the backing and support of all the members and this is reflected in the post meeting feedback summary collated by the clerk.

This was not always the case because some of the earlier feedback stated that I wasn’t summing up relevant agenda items prior to voting and that meetings were running longer than planned.

This presented a real challenge for us, but me in particular, because we had just switched over to the Carver-esq model of governance.

I was convinced that I was getting things more right than wrong, so I took on all the constructive points raised and made subtle changes where necessary.

The relationship between the principal and chief executive, the clerk to the corporation and I remains a strong and critical one for the effective governance of the college.

As stated at the beginning of this article, I had not previously thought about becoming a governor and was not aware of any awareness raising initiatives along these lines.

I believe such schemes would be beneficial in getting more people from BAME backgrounds to explore governance and becoming governors because FE needs lots more diversity in the composition of its corporations.