Grand plans in London merger

WESTMINSTER and Kingsway colleges in London are to merge in September to create an institution of 25,000 students, making it one of the country's largest colleges.

The giant institution will have an annual turnover of pound;30 million and will serve students and employers in Westminster, Wandsworth and Camden. It will be the biggest-ever merger of

further education colleges in the capital.

Richard Williams, currently at Kingsway, will lead the new college. Carol Burgess, principal of Westminster, plans to retire when the merger takes place.

Mr Williams, who has been at Kingsway for four years, was brought in to rescue the college after auditors uncovered a pound;5m legacy of debt. Inspectors had given college management a damning grade 4 - the second lowest grade possible. He turned the college round, cleared the debts and operating losses and increased student retention and achievement.

He said this week: "With the resources available at both colleges, there is the opportunity to create an institution committed to excellence.

"We will be able to provide state-of-the-art facilities and significantly improve the range and quality of the curriculum. This will allow u to further inspire our students, raise standards and provide London businesses with a workforce trained to meet their needs."

There will be specialist centres in subject areas such as business and finance, new media, hotel, catering and tourism - and heavy investment in new technology, including on-line learning - to help address London's skills shortages.

With the number of 16-year- olds in the area forecast to increase by 10 per cent by the year 2006, the college also aims to launch new specialist learning centres for 16 to 18-year-olds to help them progress into higher education.

Westminster currently has four sites in central and south London - two in Victoria, and one at both Battersea and Soho - and Kingsway has sites at Kings Cross, West Euston and Kentish Town, all north London.

The new college will be organised into three campuses - North Campus (including Kingsway's present buildings in Camden), Central Campus (including Westminster's buildings in Westminster) and South Campus (including Westminster's Wandsworth building).

The college will employ 900 full-time equivalent staff. Compulsory redundancies will be avoided "wherever possible".

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