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Area reviews will result in 50 fewer colleges, predicts FE commissioner

Sir David Collins also suggests that a 'significant proportion' of sixth-form colleges will become academies

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Sir David Collins also suggests that a 'significant proportion' of sixth-form colleges will become academies

The number of colleges will drop by more than 50 by the end of the area review process, the FE commissioner has predicted.

In a letter to college principals and chairs sent in August but published this morning, Sir David Collins also predicts that a “significant proportion” of sixth-form colleges will become academies, and suggests that the overall savings which will be achieved by the college sector will amount to between £250 million and £500 million a year.

“It is possible to project... what the end result may be, given the outcomes to date,” he writes. “Upwards of 50 fewer GFE colleges than before, the academisation of a significant proportion of sixth-form colleges and an annual reduction in costs of between £250 million and £500 million as colleges present their plans for a 3-5 per cent annual cash surplus – a significant sum to invest in the higher level skills that the country needs.”

Sir David will retire next month. On Monday it was announced that Richard Atkins will take over the role.

'No forced mergers'

In the letter, Sir David also writes that "myths" about the area reviews have been dispelled. "No one is being 'forced' into a merger with anyone: there are no targets with regard to the numbers of mergers that may result as a result of this process and there is no prescribed level of the savings that might be achieved. There is also no 'minimum size' of college that is considered to be viable (although there are significant economies of scale possible in larger organisations) or an advanced plan for each area that gradually gets unrolled as the area review progresses."

In some parts of the country, colleges are developing shared back office services and joint apprenticeship provision, Sir David writes. "Above all, there is emerging a much greater sense of the sector working together to address the needs of the economy at a time when organisations delivering public services as a whole are being required to deliver more with less," he adds.

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