Colleges propose to merge after government review
Establishments may join forces in bid to become ‘financially robust and efficient’
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.”