FE Commissioner called in as principal on leave for ‘personal reasons’

The FE Commissioner’s team will visit Richmond-upon-Thames College next month after its principal went on indefinite leave for ‘personal reasons’.

Robin Ghurbhurun has been the high-profile leader of the college since 2014, on top of seven non-executive roles, including chair of the Association of Colleges’ technology portfolio group and director of JISC.

However, since at least early this month his role has been filled on an interim basis by the deputy principal, Jason Jones, who joined the college in March.

It is understood intervention from the government is connected to financial failings amid plans for an £80 million investment in a new building.

Learner outcomes are one of the success stories from Ghurbhurun’s time at the college, as achievement rates have risen from 77.3 per cent in 2013/14 to 83.5 per cent in 2017/18.

This improvement helped bring the college up from an Ofsted grade three to grade two in 2017, with inspectors praising Ghurbhurun, governors and managers for being “very successful in improving rapidly the outcomes for students” across all levels, qualifications and the majority of subject areas.

But there has not been a similar success with the college’s finances: the FE Commissioner’s visit comes after the college generated a £2.4 million deficit in 2017/18.

Between November 2016 and April 2017, the college had to make use of an overdraft facility of £750,000, which was fully paid back in May 2017.

In addition, it has seen a 47 per cent decline in 16-18 student numbers between 2014/15 and 2018/19, equating to a 38 per cent decline in funding over that period according to the ESFA allocations.

Richmond was previously in FE Commissioner-led financial intervention from November 2015 until July 2016.

Despite the college’s difficult financial straits however, work started in June last year on a new campus building costing £80 million.

Asked whether the project was still on track, contractors ISG said it is progressing exactly on schedule and on budget, and they have a “strong and positive working relationship” with the college.

A spokesperson for Richmond-upon-Thames College said: “The college confirmed today that its principal and CEO, Robin Ghurbhurun, has resigned from his post with immediate effect for personal reasons.

“Transitional arrangements are in place.  Jason Jones will act as interim principal and CEO and the college’s accounting officer pending the search for a permanent replacement.”

Ghurbhurun declined to comment.