Principal, FE Director or Head of a Further Education College

Published: 16 Nov 2015

Principal, FE Director

The leading role within further education colleges comes under various names, the most common being a principal, FE director, or head of further education. For the purpose of this job description we shall be referring to a principal of further education.

The principal role requires a proven track record of strong strategic leadership and management experience, as well as extensive knowledge of the challenges faced by the education sector. As a principal you would be responsible for fostering and maintaining a clear vision for the future of the college. It would be your duty to widen opportunities for education within the community, driving forward both the commercial and educational success of the college.

What does a principal of a further education college do?

The principal will have overall responsibility for the continued development and growth of the college's provision across both FE and HE.

General responsibilities may vary, but could include:

  • Establishing clear lines of responsibility for the curriculum, the successful financial management, and development and improvement of the student experience.
  • Leading on the strategy, planning, management and delivery of courses and qualifications, learning resources, libraries, and research
  • Direct line management responsibility for all academic staff, including implementation of all staffing policies and procedures
  • Maintaining student discipline; suspending or expelling students on disciplinary or academic grounds
  • Contributing to the development of the college's annual budget
  • Ensuring compliance with relevant legislation and procedures
  • Representing the college at external and internal events
  • Fostering and maintaining effective relationships with local, regional and national agencies
  • Facilitating cultural and business change by developing agreed objectives and operational plans to meet the college's strategic plan
  • To actively promote Safeguarding and implement related policies
  • Attending all college meetings – these could be in relation to the corporation, policy and resources, standards and audit committees etc.

What hours does a principal work?

Principals of further education colleges are usually contracted to work between 37 hours and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, it's common for principals to work in excess of 37 hours per week. Positions often include travel

What salary can a principal of a further education provider expect to earn?

The principal of a further education provider could usually expect to earn anything between £100,000 and £200,000* depending on the size and prestige of the institution. You would also have access to a final salary pension scheme (either Teachers’ Pension Scheme or the Local Government Pension Scheme.)

*Guideline figures only

N.b. In the last academic year analysis by FE week showed that there had been a threefold increase in colleges paying upwards of £200,000 for principal posts. The three highest salaries paid by further education colleges were £331k, £291k and £238k by Birmingham Metropolitan College, the College of Haringey, and Enfield and North West London respectively.

What qualifications and experience will I need to become a principal?

A principal would be expected to hold a degree, as well as post-graduate education, and a relevant management or professional qualification. Throughout your career you would also have proven evidence of a commitment to continued professional development.

A principal would need to show extensive knowledge and experience of the FE and/or HE sector and would already have a successful track record in a senior role within an education provider. You would be able to show your ability in building and developing a high-performing Executive Team as well as experience managing a workforce of a significant size.

You would also need to have demonstrable experience of delivering both academic and institutional success and in your time in senior roles you would have built up a proven track record of setting, responding to, and successfully delivering challenging performance targets. You would also have gained experience working with and being accountable to a governing body, as well as experience of dealing with professional bodies, as well as  extensive experience of the Ofsted and QAA inspection processes.

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