WLTM college with GS of cash

A college whose financial collapse has been blamed on adult education cuts has issued a "come and get me" plea for merger partners.

Persistent deficits and missed targets at Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College mean that the college corporation has decided it will have to either merge or close.

A prospectus sent out last week appealing for a rescuer from among 50 colleges and universities was likened to a personal ad by union officials.

"Would like to meet FE college with good sense of financial propriety,"

said Colin Gledhill, the University and College Union's regional official for the North-west.

The search for a partner came after Ofsted inspectors found that the college leadership was failing after years of missing recruitment targets and running up deficits through bad management.

Cuts to adult education funding dealt a final blow, inspectors said, because 89 per cent of the college's 10,000 students are adults.

A "brutally honest" recovery plan, and extra funding from the Learning and Skills Council to improve its systems, has not been enough to save the college.

Mr Gledhill said: "This is the worst example of a number of colleges which have been seriously mistreated. It has suffered disproportionately because it's in an area with a high proportion of adult part-time learners."

Governors were criticised in the Ofsted report for failing to properly monitor the college's financial situation, but several aspects of the teaching were praised.

In a statement, the college said its financial problems were "largely due to government cuts in funding for adult education".

Steven Broomhead, the college corporation's new chairman, said: "The Ofsted report makes clear that the quality of education is reasonable. If the college closed, it would be very difficult geographically.

"Skelmersdale and Ormskirk both have a very strong community identity. They need to have a post-16 presence, particularly in vocational subjects," he said.

He said "two or three" colleges had already expressed an interest.

The college will open as normal in September, he added, and students would be unaffected by the changes.

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