When she retires this summer, Jenny Shackleton, 55, principal of troubled Wirral Metropolitan College, will have spent 26 years involved in further education. The past 12, in the politically charged atmosphere of the Wirral, have not been easy.
Plunged into the complexities of incorporation five years ago, forced to deal with a huge reduction in its European Social Fund grant and embroiled in local rows over the sale of one of its sites, the college has built up a debt of more than Pounds 9 million under her stewardship.
Her enemies describe her as "very dynamic but a bit of a control freak" and "not a great delegator", but even they admit not all the college's setbacks can be laid at her door.
Her friends say she has been the victim of envy and deliberately targeted by some of the further education powers that be, which have "worn down her bubbly personality".
Educated until the age of 21 at Guildford County School, Surrey, and Froebel Educational Institute, London, Mrs Shackleton was 25 when she entered University College London, to study English.
She took a first-class degree and then studied for a further education teacher's certificate.
For 14 years, she worked for Bedfordshire education authority, progressing from a lecturer at Barnfield College, Luton, to senior assistant education officer for the council.
A sister of Alan Ryan, warden of New College, Oxford, she has a number of friends in high places and has developed more through membership of national bodies such as the Prince's Trust Volunteers Programme, the 1991-93 National Commission on Education and the National Advisory Task Force for the New Deal.
With two daughters, three grandchildren and looking after elderly relatives, she also has heavy family commitments. While she is unlikely to retire altogether, her departure from Wirral College should allow her to spend more time with them.