In the news: Dianne Willcocks

July 11, 2003

In the current climate there is no place for the modesty that has held back the college sector for so long, according to its new champion Dianne Willcocks.

Professor Willcocks intends to let ministers - and everyone else for that matter - know that the college sector has, for some time, been delivering everything the government has asked of universities.

Colleges have just been too slow at coming forward.

"The public has been diverted down a narrow track for too long, and I want to change that as quickly as possible," said Professor Willcocks, principal of York St John College and the new chair of the Standing Conference of Principals. "Without anyone really noticing, colleges have exceeded expectations in widening access, they have professionalised and modernised, they recruit and retain consistently well, and they offer the 'academic intimacy' that tends to turn out well-rounded individuals."

And Professor Willcocks should know. Over the past three years she has succeeded in turning around York St John, which was previously failing on a whole range of criteria. As an active advocate of the sector, she is a trustee of the Higher Education Staff Development Agency, a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the National Health Service University, a member of the Higher Education Funding Council's widening participation strategy committee and chair of the York Theatre Royal Trust, as well as being on the York Diocesan Board of Education, among other public duties in Yorkshire.

Professor Willcocks is a social scientist, specialising in the field of old age. She was previously assistant principal at Sheffield Hallam University and director of research at the University of North London.

"This is a strategically important time for higher education colleges, which have a distinctive role to play in the post-white paper world, and I look forward to securing success for our increasingly diverse student body," she said.

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