College wins competition to boost numbers ... then fails to clinch the funds

4th December 2009 at 00:00
One of the country's newest and biggest colleges won a Learning and Skills Council (LSC) competition to provide additional student numbers in Essex but was then denied capital funding to turn it into a reality, it emerged this week.

The Government this week approved the merger of Thurrock amp; Basildon College and South East Essex College to create South East Essex College of Further and Higher Education.

The new college, which comes into being on January 1, has 20,000 students and a turnover of about 60 million.

The former South East Essex College bid for and won approval from the LSC to be lead partner in the Thurrock Learning Campus project to increase opportunities for local students and had submitted a bid for capital funding on the back of this. But the college was not among the 13 projects to receive funding to start work this year.

Principal of the new college, Jan Hodges, said that phase two of the Thurrock campus would cost about 60 million.

"We thought we would get capital funding linked to our winning the competition for additional places for young people but this has not happened," she said.

"We are disappointed about that. South Essex is traditionally an area of low participation. But hopefully through borrowing and the sale of some assets we can put learning where the learners are."

The new college plans to grow total student numbers by 5,000 over the next three or four years, funding permitting.

Ms Hodges plans to create town centre campuses in Thurrock and Basildon, repeating the success of the college's Southend campus, which was opened in the town centre high street in 2004 and which has since almost doubled the number of 16-19 learners.

"Thurrock and Basildon College approached us in 2008 having completed an options appraisal that had concluded that merger was the best option," Ms Hodges said.

"There were a number of issues, including difficulties with its reputation and declining learner numbers. But the main reason for merger was strategic in that it would be better for learners if the two colleges became one."

The college is working to expand learning opportunities in Basildon by partnering with SEEVIC College, which has just opened a new campus in the town for 16- to 19-year-olds.

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