Bryan Davies, the former Labour spokesman on further and higher education, is to be the next chair of the Further Education Funding Council. On January 1, he will succeed Bob Gunn in the two days a week, Pounds 37,000 a year post.
Elevated to the House of Lords as Lord Davies of Oldham after the general election, he lost his chance of a post in the new government when he was unable to find another seat after his Oldham Central and Royton constituency was abolished in boundary changes. At the time, David Blunkett indicated that he hoped a role would be found for him.
Lord Davies, 58, has been an active member of the Upper House since taking his seat in October. In his first five weeks he spoke five times, including three times on education issues. He said he would be able to combine Lords and FEFC duties: "The Lords sits four days a week but votes on only three."
Lord Davies was a lecturer before entering parliament for the first time in 1974. He worked in the polytechnic rather than the further education sector. But as an area official for the lecturers union Natfhe, he dealt frequently with colleges of further education.
Acknowledging that the sector had changed radically since then, notably with incorporation in 1992, Lord Davies said: "It has shown a remarkable ability to adjust to its environment and to respond to changes in work and society."
He said he was "delighted to be given the chance to contribute to a field that I regard as a very important priority, and I know that the government does, too. They and I expect further education to play a major part in developing the skills of the nation".
Within the sector, Lord Davies said the next big challenge was to respond to Helena Kennedy's report on widening participation. Acknowledging financial worries, he said the government was committed to the sector, citing the extra money allocated and the opportunity that the New Deal would provide for more financial viability.
Lord Davies believes that his political connections are a plus in the new job, but he emphasised that loyalty to the government would not stop his putting further education's case vigorously in meetings with ministers and officials.
He said he was concerned about the unrepresentative nature of some college governing bodies: "There have been some cases in which a small number of influential governors and the principal have been determined to keep staff interests and opinions at arm's length." Cooperation among the principal, governors and staff is a must for colleges' successful development, and governing bodies must be more representative and involve local communities, he said.