The largest college group is once again LTE Group, with an overall income in 2017-18 of more than £183 million. The group includes The Manchester College and independent training providers Total People and Novus.
The second biggest college group is NCG, which in 2017-18 had a total income of more than £158 million. The college group is has a large geographic spread, incorporating Newcastle College, Lewisham College and Southwark College in London, Kidderminster College in the West Midlands, Carlisle College in Cumbria and West Lancashire College.
For the first time, there are three colleges with an income over £100 million. The London-based WKCIC Group, which includes City and Islington College and Westminster Kingsway College, was the third biggest college group, with a total income in 2017-18 of more than £111 million, up from £80 million the previous year.
According to figures compiled by the Association of Colleges, 2017 saw a record number of college mergers, with 29 colleges joining forces at the height of the area review process – the highest number since colleges were given self-governing corporate status in 1993, taking them out of local authority control. In 2018, there were 12 college mergers.
Read more: The UK's largest college groups (from 2015-16 accounts)
More news: The Manchester College rebrands as LTE Group
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Ian Pretty, chief executive of Collab Group – a membership organisation that represents several large colleges – said the figures show is the continuing consolidation of the English college sector into large college groups and the emergence of college groups of over £60m by revenues as the norm.
He added: “This reflects the consolidation that has already taken place in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish college sectors.
“The emergence of these large college groups raises some interesting challenges for the sector such as: whether the leadership of these new college groups will be able to deliver the value from the merger; whether large colleges can deliver financial sustainability over the medium to long-term; and whether sub-£25 million colleges will continue to be the educationally and financially sustainability.
“Larger college groups are to be welcomed if the mergers are done right but the sector, as a whole, needs to begin to challenge itself about the sustainability of smaller colleges in the face of the trend toward consolidation across the UK.”