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Guidance on the appointment of the Principal


Colleges planning to merge should consider who will be the Principal of the merged College. There is a considerable body of research that confirms the vital role of effective leadership in managing major organisation changes, such as mergers.


Without the early appointment of a Principal to provide such leadership, Partnership Boards may increase the risk of leadership failure.

Selection and Appointment of the Principal

Decisions on how and when a Principal is appointed must ultimately be for the colleges involved. Colleges should commence the selection process for the Principal of the merged college at the earliest possible opportunity. This can be done by the board of each merging college delegating the task to the Partnership or Shadow Board or equivalent body. The appointment of a new Principal for a merged college,should be by competitive process, either through an external competition, extending beyond the Principals of the merging colleges, or internally.

Colleges should take their own legal advice in terms of the compatibility of their approach with employment law. The advice should cover, in particular, the consultation requirements under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations in relation to the impact of the recruitment process on existing Principals and their contractual rights.

The merging colleges will require to have agreed previously how the successful candidate will then be employed prior to the vesting day. That is likely to involve one of the colleges offering employment as Principal-designate. The Principal is a key figure in the successful delivery of the benefits of any college merger, and there is, therefore significant advantage in having the successful candidate in post at the earliest possible date. This approach is also supported by Audit Scotland with regard to mergers more generally.

The above approach is appropriate to either a host or phoenix merger. In a host merger, it will be possible for the 'continuing' college to employ the successful candidate as Principal-designate, who would then remain with that employer post-merger. In a phoenix merger, however, there will be no continuing college and the Principal-designate would therefore require to transfer employment on vesting day.

As indicated, if the offer of the post of Principal-designate is made to an individual other than the incumbent of the position of Principal of the host college, legal advice should be sought as to the impact of this decision on the current host college Principal.

Other senior posts

The other senior posts within the new college should similarly be the subject of competition, though there may be a case for this to be of more restricted nature than for the Principal.