'Former AoC chief executive Roger Ward called him "the ultimate hands-off manager" but others stress that he combines charm with determination' News of a dip in the number of further education students comes at a bad time for David Melville, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council.
It is unlikely to boost his position - rumoured to have slipped lately - in the list of potential candidates for chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, which will replace the FEFC next year.
Professor Melville has had a difficult few months. In September, he was accused by the Public Accounts Committee of misleading Parliament during a select committee evidence session on Halton College, although he rejected the criticism. Last month, the FEFC was accused of a breach of natural justice by its own ombudsman over its inspection of Wirral Metropolitan College.
It is especially galling because Melville arrived at the FEFC from Middlesex University, where he had been vice-chancellor since 1991, labelled "a safe pair of hands". There he had overseen the transition from polytechnic to new university.
Earlier, as vice-rector of what is now the University of Central Lancashire, he was involved in setting up the first links between a higher education institution and associate colleges.
Educated at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School and Sheffield University, where he achieved first-class honours and a PhD, he began his career as a lecturer in physics at Southampton University.
While at Middlesex, he become involved in the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, to which he was elected vice-president. On his FEFC appointment, he vowed to raise the profile of the sector. One of his first moves was to publish a joint declaration with Sir Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Former AoC chief executive Roger Ward called him "the ultimate hands-off manager" but others stress that he combines charm with determination and is an adept political mover.