Troubled college chief 'seconded'

January 28, 2000

Melton Mowbray College is set to be taken over by a Further Education Funding Council troubleshooter as principal Ken Masters leaves the

college on long-term leave.

Sources close to the college and the funding council have confirmed that the governors should endorse a plan next week in which an FEFC-approved "consultant" will be appointed as acting principal during Mr Masters's leave.

No final deal had been struck earlier this week but it is understood that Mr Masters will be seconded to De Montfort University. As Melton is soon to merge with nearby Brooksby college, Mr Masters is unlikely to return.

Late last year the joint unions passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mr Masters, after a THES investigation revealed the college had recruited suspected illegal immigrants as students and had governance problems.

The unions criticised the management for "ineffective marketing, blocked channels of communication, non valuing of staff and a culture of blame and bullying". They said THES reports had been the "last straw". The reports also prompted an independent investigation by former chief inspector of colleges Terry Melia.

Last month he recommended reform of the college's overseas recruitment procedures and advertising for a new clerk to the governors. The clerk has close personal links with management and had not been appointed in accordance with best practice.

Dr Melia, a former chief inspector of colleges also found that "the college is an unhappy institution in which there is not much laughter. A corporate paranoia pervades the college."

There are financial concerns. The FEFC, which has an observer on the governing body, declined to comment. John Machin, acting chair of governors, said: "Ken Masters is not sacked, he is not leaving, he is not on gardening leave. We have approached the FEFC for a package of help and we are waiting." Mr Masters was unavailable for comment.

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