This week, an article was published by FE Week. The piece contains exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about my expenses, for example, many of the items listed in the article by FE Week including a dishwasher from Curry’s and dozens of copies of certain books were clearly for College use rather than the Principal’s.
The story has attempted to paint a picture of me as a flagrant spend-thrift using College funds for my own personal gain. This is not the case, and knowing how stories can be created and twisted, I am taking this opportunity to provide a context for the matters raised in the article.
A large focus of the article seems to be around the amount of international travel which I have undertaken. I would like to state that the sole purpose for my international work has always been with the aim of increasing the College’s reputation overseas in order to create additional sources of income. Over the last 4 years the College has earned in the region of £2.5m pounds of additional income from international business development activities, income that has been vital in protecting both student services and the quality of education afforded to our students in a time of significant and unprecedented cuts to Government sponsored programmes. All of this work has been undertaken with the sole aim of enabling Highbury to flourish. In its entirety, the expenditure incurred furthered the operational and strategic goals of the College.
The College has a robust and thorough process to review, approve and control any expenditure incurred by the Principal or any other member of staff. The expenses referred to in the article were approved and authorised correctly and are also subject to independent audit in accordance with College procedures. A sizable amount of the expenses was reimbursed to the College through grants or other funding and indeed some of the expenses were to cover travel and CPD events for other staff, but paid from the Principal’s budget. I have not hidden anything from the Highbury Board or the regulators and it is unfortunate and unfair that this story suggests otherwise.
Chief Executives of further education colleges have found ourselves under fire in recent years within a context in which there is extreme pressure to generate income to survive. A sharp reduction in the number of income streams from the Government over a number of years has led to us being encouraged to diversify our income, including international work in line with the international education strategy.
The pressure to deliver in order to balance the budget and to generate income so that we can do the vital work we do is extreme, the burden a heavy one as we seek to enable our colleges and students to thrive. I have been at the helm at Highbury College for nearly two decades. Highbury is truly an extraordinary place and it has been the privilege of my working life to serve the people of Portsmouth and the College. The past few years have been difficult for all of us who work within the Further Education sector, yet we continue to strive to do the very best for our Students and communities – it is what makes a further education college very special.
Stella Mbubaegbu CBE
Principal & Chief Executive
Highbury College Portsmouth