Col­leges pro­pose to merge after govern­ment re­view

Es­tab­lish­ments may join forces in bid to be­come ‘fi­nan­cially ro­bust and ef­fi­cient’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Camilla Good­man

AMERSHAM and Wy­combe Col­lege and Ayles­bury Col­lege have an­nounced that they are in dis­cus­sions to merge as part of a na­tional govern­ment re­view of the fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

The pro­posed merger would see cour­ses con­tin­u­ing to be de­liv­ered at all three cur­rent cam­puses in Ayles­bury, Amersham and Flack­well Heath.

Fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and sixth form col­leges in Eng­land are cur­rently tak­ing part in gov­ern­men­tled Area Based Re­views, which are fo­cus­ing on how best to of­fer high qual­ity pro­vi­sion that meets the cur­rent and fu­ture needs of stu­dents and em­ploy­ers in the area, sup­port­ing eco­nomic growth and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Amersham and Wy­combe Col­lege and Ayles­bury Col­lege par­tic­i­pated in the Thames Val­ley Area re­view with seven other col­leges across the area in Bucks, Ox­ford­shire and Berk­shire.

The re­cent con­clu­sion of this re­view has led to dis­cus­sions be­tween Ayles­bury Col­lege, Amersham and Wy­combe Col­lege and the Thames Val­ley Area Re­view team, fo­cused on bring­ing to­gether both col­leges to cre­ate one col­lege for Buck­ing­hamshire.

Both col­leges have agreed to pur­sue this pro­posal as an op­por­tu­nity to cater for the needs of stu­dents, em­ploy­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties the col­leges serve at all three cam­puses – Ayles­bury, Amersham and Flack­well Heath.

Prin­ci­pal and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ayles­bury Col­lege Karen Mitchell said “It’s an ex­cit­ing time for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and skills in Buck­ing­hamshire and we can see the great op­por­tu­nity in es­tab­lish­ing one col­lege for Bucks, bring­ing to­gether the best as­pects of both col­leges and sup­port­ing our shared am­bi­tion to build highly re­spon­sive vo­ca­tional and tech­ni­cal learn­ing that de­liv­ers job skills of the fu­ture.

“The pro­posed merger will cre­ate a larger, more ca­pa­ble and re­silient or­gan­i­sa­tion; an in­sti­tu­tion which will de­liver con­sis­tently high qual­ity teach­ing, im­prov­ing out­comes for stu­dents. The new merged col­lege will be more fi­nan­cially ro­bust and sus­tain­able, more ef­fi­cient and bet­ter able to re­spond to the needs of its stake­hold­ers.”

The pro­posed merger is likely to take sev­eral months to fi­nalise.

Dis­cus­sions be­tween the two col­leges are in very early stages, with due dili­gence work to start shortly.

Con­sul­ta­tions will be held with staff, stu­dents and other key stake­holder groups.

Both col­leges have em­pha­sised that for stu­dents and staff it is ‘busi­ness as usual’.

Ed­ward Weiss, the newly ap­pointed chair of Amersham and Wy­combe Col­lege, is part of the steer­ing group plan­ning the merger, along­side act­ing prin­ci­pal Jackie Watt.

Mr Weiss said: “We all recog­nise the ad­van­tages of hav­ing one FE Col­lege in Buck­ing­hamshire and we will be work­ing to­wards it very pos­i­tively. We’re now in the ini­tial stages of plan­ning the merger and we fully ap­pre­ci­ate the work now re­quired. All our stake­hold­ers will be con­sulted as work pro­ceeds”.

Bucks County Coun­cil’s cabi­net mem­ber for ed­u­ca­tion and skills Zahir Mo­hammed said: “Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil fully sup­ports the pro­posed merger be­tween Ayles­bury Col­lege and Amersham and Wy­combe Col­lege. Hav­ing one ded­i­cated col­lege for Buck­ing­hamshire will strengthen the sec­tor and our abil­ity to in­flu­ence skills pro­vi­sion within the county.

“Al­most a quar­ter of young peo­ple in the county progress into fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion col­leges, with the aim of find­ing skilled em­ploy­ment lo­cally. We be­lieve that the ‘One Col­lege for Bucks’ vi­sion will of­fer them the high qual­ity vo­ca­tional and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion they need to be the fu­ture work­force of Buck­ing­hamshire.”

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Buck­ing­hamshire Thames Val­ley Lo­cal En­ter­prise Part­ner­ship (BTVLEP) Richard Har­ring­ton can see many pos­i­tive rea­sons for bring­ing the two col­leges to­gether.

He said “BTVLEP has a stated pri­or­ity of high qual­ity train­ing pro­vi­sion at the right level that can be eas­ily ac­cessed by learn­ers and em­ploy­ers and which meets the needs of the re­gion.

“We be­lieve that the pro­posed merger will bring greater re­turn on pub­lic in­vest­ment through more ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive, sus­tain­able op­er­a­tions im­pact­ing di­rectly on the pro­duc­tiv­ity and eco­nomic growth lo­cally and re­gion­ally.”

Che­sham and Amersham MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan said: “I wel­come the pro­posed merger be­tween Amersham & Wy­combe Col­lege and Ayles­bury Col­lege and I hope that it will progress well.

“How­ever, it is ‘busi­ness as usual’ at our lo­cal col­lege and I am sure this will be an ex­cit­ing time for all the new stu­dents who will be wel­comed to the cam­pus in Septem­ber.”

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