Highbury College chair moves aside as FE commissioner moves in to supervise college

THE chairman of governors at a college has stepped aside after a visit from the Further Education Commissioner amid an expenses scandal.

By Millie Salkeld
Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 8:57 pm
Updated Friday, 15th November 2019, 9:03 am
Stella Mbubaegbu, principal of Highbury College, pictured at the college with students Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Following the visit it is not clear whether Highbury College principal Stella Mbubaegbu has been suspended.

The college’s chair of governors, Tim Mason, will take a back seat following a visit from an FE Commissioner this week as the department put the educational establishment in Cosham into supervised college status.

Education Minister Lord Agnew called for an urgent visit from the FE Commissioner after principal Stella Mbubaegbu was the centre of an expenses scandal.

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FE Week revealed the principal claimed £150,000 expenses in four years on her corporate card including hundreds of pounds spent on luxury headphones, first class flights abroad and more than £350 on a leaving dinner for four people at a Michelin starred restaurant.

A statement from chair of governors Tim Mason read: ‘The College has moved from intervention into supervised college status and the FE Commissioner has indicated that he will support the College to strengthen our leadership and governance.

‘The FE Commissioner would like to support the Board and as such will be arranging for a National Governance Lead to chair the Board during this period of supervision. I have agreed to step aside and I welcome this intervention for the good of the College, staff and students.’

Mr Mason will remain on the board.

A report from the FE Commissioner relating to his visit will be published in ‘due course’ according to the Department of Education.

The FE Commissioner enforced a ‘supervised college status’ during his visit this week – the status is enforced where the level of risk escalates, for example, where an additional intervention threshold is breached, where significant milestones are not achieved or where recovery is considered to be too slow.

Despite reports from FE Week about Ms Mbubaegbu being suspended, a spokeswoman for the college said it was untrue that Stella was ‘no longer running the college' and that she remains as CEO and Principal.

However, the college refused to clarify if Ms Mbubaegbu had been suspended.

The spokeswoman said: ‘I can confirm Stella Mbubaegbu remains CEO and Principal of Highbury College and as with any member of staff, it would be inappropriate to comment on an individual’s status within the organisation.’

Last month the principal announced she would be retiring in July 2020.

In a statement, she said: ‘I deeply care about and am extremely proud of Highbury College.

'It has been an immense joy and privilege to serve the college, its diverse communities and the wider FE sector over the past two decade.’

The News previously reported that she sent an email to staff following pub to insist that she was not a ‘flagrant spend-thrift’ and none of a £150,000 spend on her corporate credit card was for personal gain.