Activate unveils new chief exec and plans for another merger

Gary Headland will succeed Sally Dicketts as CEO at Activate Learning.

Gary Headland will succeed Sally Dicketts as CEO at Activate Learning.



Activate Learning has announced that Gary Headland, currently chief executive of Lincoln College Group, will succeed Sally Dicketts when she retires next year.

The two groups are also exploring a potential merger, in a move that would create the largest college group in the country. For 2019/20, Activate reported its group income as £125.8 million and Lincoln College Group reported £59.8 million. The combined group would exceed LTE, currently England’s largest college group, by around £20 million.

Headland, who takes over on April 1, 2022, said he was “honoured and proud to be invited to lead Activate Learning through the next phase of its distinguished history”.

“Activate Learning is a pioneering education group with a global reach, committed to transforming lives through its approach to learning,” he added.

“I am very much looking forward to working closely with the Activate Learning team to achieve our shared and compelling vision of achieving far-reaching, progressive change and impact through learning.”

Sue Sturgeon, chair of governors at Activate Learning, said: “Gary has a fantastic career track record and the work that he has done within the FE sector has been very innovative.”

“The board of governors feel that he has exactly the right skills and attributes to guide Activate Learning into an exciting new chapter delivering exceptional operational and strategic leadership to the group.”

Both LCG and Activate Learning are made up of multiple colleges and have international and commercial operations. LCG’s has three colleges located in Lincoln, Gainsborough and Newark and Activate’s seven campuses serve Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. 

Dicketts, currently also serving as AoC president, announced her retirement in June after 18 years in post.

Commenting on the appointment of her successor, Dicketts said: “I’ve loved being part of Activate Learning and I know that Gary will love working here as much as I have, surrounded by some of the most passionate and highly capable people I’ve ever worked alongside.”



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