Principal with 30 years’ experience named next AoC president

York College principal Dr Alison Birkinshaw has been announced as the president-elect of the Association of Colleges.

She will take over from current president Ian Ashman at the end of his one-year term on August 1.

Dr Birkinshaw’s FE career dates back to 1984, when she began at Nelson and Colne College.

She moved to Runshaw College in 2001 as assistant principal for adult and higher education, before moving back to Nelson and Colne in 2004 to take the reins as principal.

Since 2008 she has served as principal of York College, which was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in January 2014.

Dr Birkinshaw’s services to further education were recognised with an OBE in January 2012 n honorary doctorate from the University of York in 2017.

Commenting on her appointment, Dr Birkinshaw said it was a “huge privilege” to have been elected as AoC president.

“Whilst I certainly will not neglect York College, this role will allow me to act as ambassador for the sector, and I look forward to drawing the attention of ministers and others in government to the big difference colleges make to the lives of individuals, communities and employers,” she said.

Dr Birkinshaw vowed to “work hard to ensure that there is recognition that investment in the college sector is crucial so that young people and adult students can contribute positively to society”.

“I will also enjoy paying tribute to the hard work of staff across the sector and the support colleges receive from the families of students, local businesses and the wider community,” she added.

David Hughes, AoC chief executive, said he looked forward to welcoming Dr Birkinshaw as the association’s president and described her as a “great asset to the AoC”.

“The next government will need to work closely with colleges to address labour market skills shortages and to engage with young people and adults who need and want to get on in life,” said.

“Alison will bring all of her vast experience into the many discussions we have with ministers, advisers and politicians and help set out the opportunities colleges offer in a post-Brexit world.”

Mr Ashman said: “Alison has more than 30 years’ experience in further education and a great track record of helping colleges achieve outstanding performance, as well as contributing to national work on enhancing the reputation of the sector. 

“She will be a great champion for colleges and I am pleased to see the role of AoC president in such safe and experienced hands.”

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