Petroc College boss resigns from ‘immensely challenging’ role

Sean Mackney suddenly leaves after 5 years in post

Sean Mackney suddenly leaves after 5 years in post

The principal of a college in Devon has resigned with immediate effect.

Staff at Petroc College were informed of Sean Mackney’s departure just before half term.

He has led the college since 2019 but said it was time for “another to take that next step forward” in the job which is “immensely rewarding and challenging in equal measure”.

No interim principal has yet been appointed but a spokesperson said deputy Jason Jones will lead the executive team and wider college until interim arrangements are made.

The college could not comment on the sudden nature of Mackney’s exit.

Mackney told staff: “I have tried to bring energy, ideas, and belief in the immense capacities of those who commit to learning, to create solutions to all the situations we face. However, as we approach the end of the Petroc 2025 strategy and begin looking to what comes next I believe that it is time for another to take that next step forward.

“I wish you good luck and look forward to seeing you all working together in partnership to deliver for our learners, county, and communities in the coming years.”

Petroc, which teaches around 6,000 learners each year and employs almost 500 staff, was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2019 and is preparing for another inspection in the coming months.

The college’s accounts show its financial health rating is ‘requires improvement’, with a low EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of 3.14 per cent and deficit of £2.1 million.

FE Week understands that Petroc has been making redundancies this year. The college’s spokesperson confirmed it was undergoing a “restructure process” owing to the “challenging financial context” the sector is currently operating in. They would not say how many posts are at risk as this was still being finalised.

Mackney’s departure came weeks after a council meeting about the future of Petroc’s campus in Tiverton, reported by Devon Live. The then principal told councillors the college greatly values the site amid concern there was an emphasis on the college’s Barnstaple campus.

A Petroc College spokesperson told FE Week there are no plans to close either college campus and said the college is currently up on student applications from this time last year.

On Mackney’s sudden exit, the spokesperson said: “The board of governors extended their gratitude to Sean for his unwavering dedication to Petroc, its students, staff, and the North Devon community over the past five years. They noted he has shown great commitment and creativity in working towards sustaining the college and its success.”

Prior to joining Petroc, Mackney was a pro vice chancellor at Bucks New University and was previously director of student education and engagement at the University of Exeter. He also held leadership roles at the Higher Education Academy, HEFCE and the HE Regional Development Association – South West.

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3 Comments

  1. Hopefully someone can be brought in to turn the place around. Constant restructuring and redundancies have made it a mess. Senior management has been severely lacking and it’s the staff, students and local community paying the price for their failures. Whilst challenging finances are a given, other colleges show what is possible. Some magical marketing is going to have to be done to restore the community’s faith in the place.