Hadlow College has become the first college to be placed into education administration.
At the High Court today, Chief Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Briggs approved the petition by the Department for Education, meaning that Hadlow will be the first institution to go through the college insolvency regime, created by the Technical and Further Education Act 2017.
Financial health notices to improve were last week published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency for the constituent colleges of the Hadlow College Group: Hadlow College and West Kent and Ashford College. A report into Hadlow College by the FE commissioner is expected to be published tomorrow.
Quick read: First college set to go into insolvency regime
The move comes after FE commissioner Richard Atkins told Tes in March that there was a “high risk” of a college insolvency within 12 months.
Speaking to Tes at the High Court, Mr Atkins said Hadlow was "the most serious case I’ve dealt with", and hit out at the "very poor levels of leadership and governance at the college". An FE commissioner report on the Hadlow College Group is expected to be published tomorrow.
The court heard how the move had been requested by interim college principal Graham Morley. Judge Briggs said he was satisfied that the college was "unable to pay its debts, or likely to be unable to pay its debts" and that it had "insufficient cash reserves to continue operation beyond 27 May 2019".
The court also heard how the college had received £2.82 million in emergency funding from the DfE in February.
Hadlow College's 'cashflow crisis'
Hadlow's net liabilities amounted to £6.985m. Among its debtors is the National Lottery, which gave the college a grant of £1.3m in 2016 for the development of the proposed Kent Mining Museum; it is seeking repayment of the £526,000 already paid to the college.
In giving his judgment, Judge Briggs said he was convinced that there were insufficient assets readily available to address "the cashflow crisis facing the college", and that there was "cogent evidence of cashflow insolvency".
A DfE spokesperson said: “Following a request from Hadlow College, we can confirm that the college has today been placed into education administration. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is a necessary step to maintain educational provision at Hadlow and to protect learners.
“The Education and Skills Funding Agency will continue to work closely with the FE commissioner, the administrators and with Hadlow College to minimise disruption to staff or students, and to make sure we have excellent provision of FE in Kent.”