Warwickshire College principal to leave next month

Mariane Cavalli faced criticism from the University and College Union
Mariane Cavalli faced criticism from the University and College Union

The principal and chief executive of Warwickshire College is formally leaving her role at the end of August – having taken a sudden an unexplained ‘leave of absence’ last month.

Mariane Cavalli had faced criticism for accepting a £50,000 pay rise over two years, while the organisation was struggling with a £3 million shortfall, which has placed 100 jobs at risk. No reason has yet been given either for her leave of absence or her formal departure.

Under her leadership, Warwickshire College became one of five founder colleges of the Gazelle Colleges Group, described as being “committed to developing an entrepreneurial mindset in their students”. The group has now grown to 23 colleges and continues to work with entrepreneurs from across the world, but the University and College Union criticised Warwickshire College’s payments to the group, which total £35,000 a year.

While Ms Cavalli’s pay rose and an unnamed senior manager received a £15,000 bonus, staff have seen their real-term pay fall by 16 per cent in the past five years, according to the union.

As well as its Rugby campus in Technology Drive - which has about 2,500 students - the college has sites in towns including Leamington and Warwick. A demand from the union to the college to open its accounts to public scrutiny has not yet been answered. Ms Cavalli took on her dual role nearly four years ago.

A statement published by the college today (Monday) focused on its achievements under Ms Cavalli, including its rating by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ - the highest grade possible. The statement said: “Mariane Cavalli’s leadership saw Warwickshire College launch the first UK FE college in China. The China-UK National Skills College was officially unveiled in 2012, cementing a joint venture between two leading vocational colleges from both countries and a Chinese Education Investment Company.

“Her work in China led to Ms Cavalli being awarded honorary professorships from two leading Chinese universities; the Hebei Normal University for Nationalities in Chengde City and; the School of Economics, Politics, and Law at the Hubei University of Technology.

“Throughout Mariane’s time at the College student success continued to improve year on year with A-level students achieving an outstanding a 98.3 per cent pass rate in 2013 – nearly 3 per cent higher than the previous year.

“The college also continued to be one of the largest and most respected apprenticeship providers in the country, working with world class employers both locally and nationally.

“Other highlights during her tenure have included the opening of the College’s new multi million pound centre and Power Academy at Rugby, which has seen growing students numbers year on year; a multi-million pound redevelopment of the College’s Leamington centre; and the granting of planning permission and the securing of millions of pounds worth of funding to redevelop the College’s centre at Pershore - a UK Centre of Excellence for Horticulture.”

A spokeswoman said the college was “unable to provide further information relating to the departure of Ms Cavalli for legal reasons”. The process to recruit a new principal will begin in September.