Suspended principal to leave earlier than planned

A college principal who was suspended following government intervention has brought forward her retirement date.

Stella Mbubaegbu announced today that she will officially leave Highbury College at the end of April 2020, instead of July 2020.

The college said she has decided to leave early to “enable the college to accelerate the search for her successor, and to put in place new leadership”.

The FE Commissioner’s team was sent into Highbury by Department for Education minister Lord Agnew in October after FE Week revealed the principal claimed £150,000 expenses in four years.

The spending included numerous first class flights, five-star hotels, travel in luxury cars, a £350 bill – including a £45 lobster and nearly £100 on cocktails – at a Michelin star restaurant, and a £434 pair of designer headphones.

Mbubaegbu was suspended in November.

Highbury said today that following separate whistleblowing allegations suggesting wrongdoing by the principal, over a year ago a “thorough and independent” investigation was commissioned.

The investigation concluded that Mbubaegbu “had, throughout acted in accordance with extant college policies and procedures, and with the approval of the college chair at the time”.

In December, Penny Wycherley took over as interim principal and Martin Doel became interim chair of Highbury.

In announcing her decision to retire, Mbubaegbu said: “I am enormously proud of all that we have achieved together at the college, and in particular the success of our students and staff.

“You have inspired, challenged and motivated me to do better and I wish every one of you continued future success.

“I have now decided that I will leave on 30 April 2020, in order that the college can accelerate its plans to recruit an appropriate successor to my role.

“Until then I will work remotely to facilitate an effective handover to the new leadership.”

The college said Doel “thanked Stella on behalf of the college board for her many years of dedicated service to the college in which much was achieved that will have a lasting effect upon the lives of countless students and the communities that the college serves”.

Since the FE Commissioner’s intervention, Highbury has been moved into “supervised college status” and a notice to improve was published yesterday.

Mbubaegbu was awarded a CBE in the 2008 New Year honours for services to further education.