New principal at Forth Valley College
Published: 16 Oct 2013 17:000 comments
Dr Ken Thomson is the new principal, having taken over from Linda McKay in August.
With more than 20 years working at the college, and six years as depute, it seemed like a natural progression for the Glasgow-born man.
He sits in the top job having overseen the merger of the former Clackmannan, Falkirk and Stirling colleges, creation of new campuses and stringent cuts to college sector finances by the Scottish Government.
He said, “We are still in difficult times but we’re getting through and taking the positive sides now. We’ve cut our structures, we’ve got lean structures in place, but we’ve still got learners coming through so how do we give them a better opportunity?”
That is the basis for the college’s new mission statement, ‘Making Learning Work’. Part of its aim is to “cultivate a vibrant learning organisation where learners develop skills, achieve qualifications valued by the industry and progress seamlessly”.
Already the college, due to the reduction in grants and staff, has had to axe certain subjects that don’t fit that criteria. Horticultural, modern languages and community programmes were dropped either because of their lack of success, progression for students or whether they were done better at other colleges. Ken said, “We had to take some very difficult decisions. If what we do doesn’t set them (students) up for work, further or higher education or achievement we shouldn’t be doing it.”
But while some subjects have been dropped, Ken is keen to emphasise subjects, such as construction, that has been able to flourish in the new structure with its links to Historic Scotland.
Ken (53), who has a degree in Zoology and PhD in Ecological Entomology, began his career as a countryside ranger for Livingston Development Corporation. He came to Falkirk College as a lecturer Countryside Management and Ecology rose through the ranks, even as it merged with Clackmannan and Stirling in 2005. Finally in 2007 Ken became the depute principal. As depute he would regularly go “out and about” to the three campuses – something he continues to do so in his new role.
He said, “I like to go out and about. I’m looking for the spark and to generate passion and enthusiasm and to have fun in the way we work. I see the importance of meeting people and seeing how they are getting on and talking to them.”
Long-term, Ken hopes for a new campus in Falkirk and opening up the Alloa campus to community groups. Despite major changes to the college sector, with 43 colleges becoming 13 regional colleges, he is optimistic about Forth Valley College’s future.
He said, “We have a very strong curriculum strategy and that has allowed us to start the next stage. One is about investing in our learners by empowering them more. The other is about how do we grow Forth Valley College – how do we maximise our income to reinvest in our students and people. Part of that is looking at an international strategy. We have a number of really good potential markets in that area.”