FEFC gives Bolton 'worst possible grade'

June 9, 2000

Governance and management at Bolton College is so weak that the college has been failing to meet its statutory responsibilities, according to an inspection report from the Further Education Funding Council. Bolton was given the worst possible grade for the quality of its governance - "poor provision that has few strengths and many weaknesses".

The quality of its management was condemned as "less than satisfactory", that is weaknesses outweigh strengths. Governors were found to have failed to secure the "efficient, economical and effective management of all the college's resources and expenditure".

The governors' monitoring of expenditure was "poor", their oversight and control of the college's company was weak, the governors' committees did "not work effectively" and did not "adhere to their terms of reference" and governors had been excluded from important management decisions.

Management was almost as bad: the managing director of the college company was dismissed a week before the inspectors arrived in April 2000; the principal is on long-term sick leave; there was "significant" under-recruitment of students, leading to overpayments from the funding council; senior management had failed to keep student retention and achievement under review.

Financial management was the greatest cause for alarm. The college had a Pounds 3.3 million deficit in 1998-99 and is now Pounds 6.8 million in debt. It has failed to submit proper financial and student data returns to the funding council "over a long period", and financial statements due at December 1999 had not been submitted. "There are serious deficiencies in the college company accounts," the report said. "Investigations to identify the full extent of these problems are continuing."

The acting principal, David Collins, who was brought in in December 1999, has been making progress, the report said. Mr Collins said this week that the principal had applied for ill-health retirement, the chair of govenors had resigned and further governor resignations were expected. "We are working hard on our recovery plan," he said.

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Reader's comments (1)

I was the college's information manager from 1995 to late 1998, when I was suspended, basically for whistle-blowing. I spent the entire duration of my role trying to persuade senior management that the college's inability to make proper statutory returns was a responsibility of theirs; however, they preferred to scapegoat myself and my staff. The circumstances of my suspension were dubious to say the least, involving a catalogue of unproven allegations of my misconduct. A very dark period in my career, and I was relieved to get out.