New principal appointed at Northumberland College

Following the recent merger between Sunderland College and Northumberland College, the newly formed college group – Education Partnership North East – has announced a new principal for Northumberland College.

Nigel Harrett will take over the helm at Northumberland College and lead the institution into an ambitious new phase following its merger with Sunderland College last week.

Mr Harrett, who was previously Deputy Principal and Deputy Chief Executive of Sunderland College, was appointed by the Board of Governors following a rigorous selection process.

Rob Lawson, Chair of Governors, said:

“We are delighted to announce the appointment of Nigel Harrett as the new Principal of Northumberland College. We are confident that Nigel has the experience, skills and insight needed to lead Northumberland College into a bright future.”

Following a successful merger with Hartlepool Sixth Form College in 2017, Sunderland College was selected as a merger partner by Northumberland College. The new group of colleges officially formed last week as Education Partnership North East, will create one of the largest academic, professional and technical education colleges in the country.

Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said:

“Throughout his time at Sunderland College, Nigel made a significant contribution to the College’s success in transforming lives, improving the student experience and ensuring an innovative curriculum.

“He has gained extensive experience as Deputy Principal and has played a key role in the merger process with both Hartlepool Sixth Form College and Northumberland College. His wealth of experience and knowledge makes him the ideal appointment. I very much look forward to working with him in his new role to deliver the College’s bold new strategic plan.”

Ellen added:

“It has been a pleasure to work with the senior leadership team at Northumberland College during the merger process and I would like to express my gratitude for their dedication and commitment.”

Nigel started working at Sunderland College in 1989 as a lecturer of business and accountancy. He originally began his career working for the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company with an ambition to becoming an accountant, however, his desire to make a difference to young people and communities led him to combine the two by teaching accounting and business.

He progressed through the ranks, during his 30-year career at Sunderland College, to Deputy Principal and Deputy Chief Executive with overall responsibility for curriculum and quality management. He says the highlight of his career is results day, as he enjoys seeing so many young people with so many aspirations, making their ambitions a reality.

Nigel, who is also an Ofsted Inspector, a Director of One Awards, Director of Sunderland BID, and sits on national groups for Curriculum Reform Policy and Teaching, Learning and Assessment, said:

“I am very excited to be joining Northumberland College as their new Principal at such a pivotal point in the history of the College. It will be an honour to lead the College into the next ambitious stage of its growth and development.

“I am inspired by innovation and passionate about the strong values at Sunderland College and I am looking forward to embedding these into the culture at Northumberland. My key priorities will be working with partners and stakeholders to drive the College forward with a vision of excellence at its heart, ensuring the student experience is the very best it can be and delivering a career-focused curriculum aligned to the skill needs of Northumberland to ensure outstanding outcomes.”

Nigel, who lives locally in Ponteland, began his new role at Northumberland College this week, replacing previous principal Ian Clinton OBE.

In his spare time Nigel enjoys walking the family dog, gardening and the theatre.

For more information about Northumberland College visit


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