The area reviews process may be a distant memory, but there are still plenty of college mergers in the pipeline.
To date, 12 have already been proposed for 2019. There are a number of different types of merger proposed, including four mergers involving sixth-form colleges, one three-way merger and one FE/HE merger. The first college merger took place on 10 January between Activate Learning and Bracknell and Wokingham College.
If the all the mergers already set for 2019 go ahead, then the total will equal the number that took place in 2018. The year in which the most mergers took place since incorporation in 1993 was in 2017, at the height of the area reviews process, when there were 29 mergers.
On 31 March the College Restructuring Fund is set to be wound up with unspent funds returning to the Treasury. The £700 million pot of cash was made available for colleges as a “one-off” fund to help pay for mergers and restructures stemming from the area review process. The window for applications to the fund closed at the end of September. Tes reported in August that between £200 and £300 million was expected to be unspent.
Deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges Julian Gravatt said: “Mergers are complicated projects for colleges because they operate in a changing and demanding environment, deal with a large number of stakeholders and regulators, and need to focus on the needs of thousands of students.
“AoC is working with the government to improve the monitoring, intervention and support regime and to create an environment in which colleges have the best chances to be viable and continue to improve.”
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association added: "We are not expecting to see the same number of mergers now the area review process has drawn to a close, but we will continue to support our members that choose to go down this road as it can be a long and complex process."
College mergers planned for 2019
- Activate Learning and Bracknell and Wokingham College (Completed on 10 January)
Two-way college merger:
- Chichester College and Worthing College
- Eastleigh College and Southampton City College
- Activate Learning and Guildford College
- South Essex College and Prospects College
- Sunderland College and Northumberland College
- West Herts College and Barnfield College
Three-way college merger:
- New City College, Havering College of Further and Higher Education and Havering Sixth Form College
College and sixth form college merger:
- Croydon College and Coulsdon College (SFC)
- East Surrey College and John Ruskin College (SFC)
- Havant and South Downs College and Alton College (SFC)
- London South Bank University and Lambeth College