TEC Partnership leader appointed new Hull principal

Gray becomes the college's sixth leader in two years

Gray becomes the college's sixth leader in two years

Hull College has appointed a leader at a grade one college group as its new permanent principal and CEO.

Debra Gray, currently principal of the grade one Grimsby Institute and deputy chief executive of the TEC Partnership, will start on 4 April 2022.

She will be the sixth leader at Hull in two years, after Chris Malish handed in his notice in August having only served since April, owing to difficulty working away from his family.

College ‘delighted’ Gray will be taking over as principal

College chair Lesley Davies said she was “delighted that Debra will be taking over the leadership of the college at such an exciting time.

“Debra’s experience not only as a leader of an outstanding college, but in curriculum quality and innovation will be a perfect complement to the ambitious strategic plan we are setting ourselves.”

Gray was made an MBE for services to education in the Queen’s 2020 birthday honours.

Appointment comes after bailouts, campus closures, and investigations

Hull College has been through the wringer, having faced multiple financial and management problems, which first became public when it received a £42 million bailout from the government in 2018 as part of a Fresh Start process.

Michelle Swithenbank resigned as principal in December 2019, after an investigation into nepotism and financial wrongdoing at the college found “no impropriety” on her part. 

Around that time, the then FE Commissioner Richard Atkins launched his own investigation into the college and a report leaked to FE Week last year revealed how the close family of senior postholders had been handed jobs at the college while staff did not speak out for “fear of being exited at short notice”.

Since Swithenbank left, the college has been led by the college’s then-vice principal for finance Darryn Hedges; followed by Hull’s former deputy principal turned Hopwood Hall leader Derek O’Toole; followed by then Newcastle College principal Tony Lewin; before former Dudley College boss Lowell Williams stepped in as interim before and after Malish.

In April 2019, the college announced it would offload its Harrogate campus to Leeds City College as part of restructuring plans following the Fresh Start bailout.

During Williams’ time at the helm, Hull announced it would close its campus in Goole, which he said they had “no need for”.

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