A college principal who helped increase turnover by £18m, set up international links and saw a surge in students shunning university for on-the-job learning has stepped down.
Richard Thorold has already handed over the reins and running of Gateshead College to his former deputy, Judith Doyle, though he is still working on the college’s international strategy.
He said: “I want to continue to make sure I can make a contribution to the North East economy in some way or another.
“I have brought different skills to this job and wish the college well and believe it is in the right place to push forward ensuring students have the right skills and expertise to get the jobs they want.
“I will look back at my time at the college with pride and pleasure.”
In the five years since taking on the lead role, Mr Thorold has seen the college’s turnover rise from £27m to £45m. Along with educating some 3,000 16 to 19-year-old students and 8,000 adult learners, the college employs 700 full and part-time staff.
Mr Thorold said: “We have placed in the Sunday Times 100 best not-for-profit companies in 2010, 2011 and 2012. When I joined I was tasked with increasing the college’s turnover and it now has a turnover of £45m and we have established the college as a employer working with students and employers to give students the skills they need to go out and get the jobs they want. We see ourselves as a traditional technology college whose main responsibility is to develop training skills for students to get into employment or to continue on into higher education.
“Of our students, 250 to 300 are doing their A-levels with us and most will likely go on to university.”
Mr Thorold’s time in charge also saw the set up of the Gateshead Foundation, offering money to those students that can’t otherwise access the funding they need. There has also been a shift in people’s educational needs.
He said: “In the late 1990s through to about 2005, most people were encouraged, often by Government, to go to university. Now we are seeing more students saying ‘Actually I want to go out there and work’.
“They can do an apprenticeship, which can last for five years, getting a foundation degree which they can they can then top up while earning the whole time.
“For some people university is the right option and for others it might be apprenticeships, and that balance is better than it was seven years ago.”