Opt-out triggers protest

October 20, 1995

Richmond Adult and Community College's bid to opt out of local authority control hit an unwelcome hitch this week when one of its governors resigned in protest against "the wilful hijacking of a priceless civic treasure".

Jackie Caminer told Sir John Cassels, the Yorkshire college's chairman of governors, that she was "deeply concerned" about possible damage to the college.

She was resigning with regret, she added, because the price of remaining on the governing body was silence. She said: "With the staff also silenced that meant that very little information reached students and residents from informed sources with misgivings about the incorporation bid."

But college authorities are dismissing Mrs Caminer's views as a politically motivated campaign. Principal Ann Risman said: "People must decide between a desire to see the college succeed and a desire to make political points."

Mrs Risman said the college, one of only two "constituted" adult colleges in the country, had undergone a careful debate on its future and public consultation had been widespread. She said Mrs Caminer held a minority viewpoint and although there were misgivings about following in the footsteps of FE colleges, the college could not continue under present arrangements because of shrinking local authority budgets.

Mrs Caminer, a pensioner and a student at the college for many years, said her campaign was not about dogma and she claimed to have many supporters at the college, which has around 20,000 students, about three quarters of whom are women. She said the leisure and recreational aims of the college would be swamped by courses leading to formal qualifications and claimed that the governing body had no democratic right to carry through such a momentous change.

Sir John Cassels, who is out of the country this week, has issued an open letter saying: "It makes very good sense for the college to enter into direct relations with the Further Education Funding Council, which it cannot do without incorporating. Incorporation will give the college independent charitable status and lead to more secure and increased funding."

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