The Association of Colleges (AoC) has announced Dr Alison Birkinshaw, Principal of York College, as its President-elect.

Dr Birkinshaw, who began her career in further education in 1984 at Nelson and Colne College, will take over from current President Ian Ashman on 1 August 2017.

Joining Runshaw College as Assistant Principal for Adult and Higher Education in 2001, she moved back to Nelson and Colne College as Principal in 2004 and then joined York College as Principal in 2008. All three colleges were judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted. In 2012 Dr Birkinshaw received the OBE and in 2017 an honorary doctorate from the University of York, both awards in recognition of her services to further education.

Dr Birkinshaw said: “It is a huge privilege to have been elected to the role of President and I am very grateful for the support of my fellow principals. Whilst I certainly will not neglect York College, this role will allow me to act as ambassador for the sector, and I look forward to drawing the attention of Ministers and others in Government to the big difference colleges make to the lives of individuals, communities and employers. I will also enjoy paying tribute to the hard work of staff across the sector and the support colleges receive from the families of students, local businesses and the wider community. I will work hard to ensure that there is recognition that investment in the college sector is crucial so that young people and adult students can contribute positively to society. I hope I can make a difference and live up to the expectations of my fellow principals, although I know that the work of previous presidents will be a hard act to follow.”  

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “I look forward to welcoming Alison to the role of President. She will be a great asset to AoC in what is an important role, helping to deliver a strong voice for our member colleges. The next Government will need to work closely with colleges to address labour market skills shortages and to engage with young people and adults who need and want to get on in life. Alison will bring all of her vast experience into the many discussions we have with Ministers, advisers and politicians and help set out the opportunities colleges offer in a post-Brexit world.”

Ian Ashman, outgoing President of the Association of Colleges, said: “Alison has more than 30 years’ experience in further education and a great track record of helping colleges achieve outstanding performance, as well as contributing to national work on enhancing the reputation of the sector.  She will be a great champion for colleges and I am pleased to see the role of AoC President in such safe and experienced hands.”

The President serves for a one-year term working with AoC to promote colleges to Government ministers to influence their decisions when making policy for further education. They also support AoC’s Chief Executive in working together with other FE sector bodies to get the best for colleges. The role also has ambassadorial duties including visiting colleges and meeting staff and students.

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