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Alun Francis – Oldham College Principal.

OLDHAM College is delighted to announce that Alun Francis has been made an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year 2021 Honours List.

The OBE has been awarded for his services to education – including a decade of leadership at Oldham College.

Alun, 55, was appointed Principal and Chief Executive in February 2010. 

At that time austerity had just ended hopes of a much-needed £60m capital investment from Government and – within days – snow prompted the electrics to fail: plunging a campus burdened with several dilapidated buildings into total darkness. 

Alun’s tenure has since seen a transformational journey with significant advances in the quality of Oldham College’s education offer, facilities, results and reputation. 

Despite a challenging climate, unprecedented investment totalling almost £45m has been successfully secured since 2012 to upgrade or replace facilities, and the next phase – a £9m Construction Centre where students will learn the building skills of the future – opens in summer 2021. 

Learners across all areas have enjoyed year-on-year improvements in results. The 16-18 Study Programme ranks in the top national quartile and strong relationships with more than 700 local employers have powered excellent apprenticeships’ results which now rank second in Greater Manchester. 

University Campus Oldham also joined the family in 2012. Last year it achieved its’ best-ever National Student Survey results, and sealed exciting new partnerships with the Open University and CIM. 

The flagship Teaching for Distinction improvement programme for staff, which Alun co-developed, gained national recognition via a Princess Royal Training Award, and Oldham College’s shortlisting for the TES FE College of the Year 2020 award confirmed the overall progress being made. 

Alun Francis said: “This award isn’t something I would ever have sought or expected – but I’m delighted to accept it on behalf of Oldham College.” 

“The Principal’s name goes alongside all your failures and successes in further education when, in fact, both are big collective efforts. 

“We’ve all worked very hard and I’m just fortunate to have superb governors, an outstanding management team, amazing staff and a wonderful community of learners alongside me. 

“We’ve now got the facilities and offer to rank with Greater Manchester’s best and, most importantly, we’re delivering better choices and outcomes for learners, and giving them the skills and experiences needed to succeed in life. 

“Since 2007 I’ve driven the A62 Oldham Road about 3,000 times and Oldham has ‘captured’ me – it’s a special place with great people. 

“COVID-19 has hurt the local economy but everyone’s response has been a determination to work together, help each other out and emerge even stronger. 

“We aren’t the best FE college yet – but we want to be – and Oldham needs us firing on all cylinders in the current climate. This award is great encouragement for us to carry on improving, and I want to thank everyone whose efforts undoubtedly contributed to it.” 

Alun arrived in the borough in 2007 as the Director of Transforming Learning at Oldham Council where he led the Building Schools for the Future project which delivered five new secondary school facilities. 

At Oldham College he has championed work to improve inclusivity, including programmes ensuring ‘at risk’ learners with significant barriers aren’t disadvantaged. 

Excellence in special needs provision has been nurtured and acknowledged with National SEND awards, plus the first-ever Dyslexia Smart Award from the BDA for a UK FE College. 

Alun has also prioritised staff development to create an environment where everyone is supported to be high performers through extensive CPD. 

Ofsted’s most recent inspection (January 2019) rated Oldham College ‘Good’ across all categories, and its dedicated Higher Education provision at University Campus Oldham was a awarded a TEF Silver rating the same year.


Alun was raised by his parents Myra and Tegwyn, alongside his two brothers, on the Peulwys Estate in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. 

He attended Eirias High School before initially pursuing an academic career teaching social sciences, politics and history, and specialising in British urban and industrial decline. 

In 1996 he changed career and got involved in a variety of urban regeneration schemes, including work in East Manchester focusing on skills, education, youth and crime. 

Alun subsequently worked on several Greater Manchester City Region projects, including setting up the Connexions service, and projects tackling youth employment, crime, and NEET reduction. He then worked at a senior level in Children’s Services at Stockport Council before joining Oldham Council in 2007. 

At Oldham College he has been a proactive partner in the sector and also writes regularly on further education for the TES, the UK’s leading think tank Policy Exchange, and other publications. 

Alun’s grandfather, David Henry Francis, (1889-1934) left Brecon in South Wales in 1907 and was actually a cowboy. He emigrated to – and fought for – Canada in World War One where he was a stretcher bearer who got a commendation for bravery. His army papers list him as a cowboy because he worked on a ranch in British Columbia.

His close family are his wife Julie, their children Henry, Harvey, Theo and Sonny, and their stepchildren Aimee, Billy and Alice. They live in Levenshulme, South Manchester.

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