‘Per­fect storm’ which led to fail­ure of K Col­lege

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kent Business Update - By Chris Price

A lack of lead­er­ship and a poor un­der­stand­ing of what was hap­pen­ing at each cam­pus led to “a per­fect storm” which caused the col­lapse of K Col­lege, ac­cord­ing to the new bosses of the in­sti­tu­tion.

Had­low Col­lege and East Kent Col­lege have for­mally taken over the run­ning of K Col­lege, which has been split up be­tween the two providers af­ter amass­ing debts of £16m.

While East Kent Col­lege will take the Folke­stone and Dover cam­puses un­der its wing, Had­low has taken on sites at Ton­bridge, Tun­bridge Wells and Ash­ford.

Each has un­der­gone a five month due dili­gence pro­gramme with the Gov­ern­ment to take over their run­ning and will look af­ter the ed­u­ca­tion of about 14,000 stu­dents across the county this year.

East Kent Col­lege has brought the Folke­stone and Dover un­der its brand while Had­low has re­named its Ton­bridge and Tun­bridge Wells sites West Kent Col­lege and its other site Ash­ford Col­lege.

As they em­bark on a new era, bosses at the in­com­ing col­leges have de­scribed how the pre­vi­ous man­age­ment took their eye off the ball, al­low­ing the in­sti­tu­tion to fall into fi­nan­cial trou­bles.

Had­low prin­ci­pal Paul Han­nan said: “We don’t know every­thing that went on but from what we’ve seen, it is quite sur­pris­ing that it ac­tu­ally hap­pened.

“As an ob­server from not too far away, we won­dered why cer­tain de­ci­sions were be­ing made and ul­ti­mately the per­fect storm hap­pens with the fi­nan­cial and qual­ity is­sues.”

East Kent Col­lege deputy prin­ci­pal Anne Leese said: “Clearly se­nior man­age­ment based at Ton­bridge had their eye off the ball when it came to qual­ity and prac­tices across all cam­puses.

“On the staffing side they felt no one ‘up at Ton­bridge’ re­ally knew what was go­ing on. I’m sure there’s a sad story be­hind the state of af­fairs which took place.”

K Col­lege was formed in April 2010 from the merger of South Kent Col­lege and West Kent Col­lege and catered for more than 25,000 stu­dents at one point.

How­ever, high debt lev­els brought it to its knees and forced hun­dreds of re­dun­dan­cies af­ter mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments.

Mr Han­nan said: “Two weaker or­gan­i­sa­tions be­ing brought to­gether is not nec­es­sar­ily the way for­ward.

“West Kent had some prob­lems with the cap­i­tal pro­gramme so you ended see­ing two col­leges come to­gether that were in a re­ally weak po­si­tion.

“When you put to­gether two very weak or­gan­i­sa­tions with fi­nan­cial and qual­ity is­sues, that was part of a per­fect storm.”

While East Kent Col­lege has ac­quired two cam­puses, Had­low Col­lege has ac­quired K Col­lege Group, in­clud­ing the ma­jor­ity of its debts and the bulk of its re­main­ing staff.

Had­low fi­nance di­rec­tor Mark Lums­don-Tay­lor said: “That is why we have spent the last four months rene­go­ti­at­ing the debt pro­file, which has been in part­ner­ship with the Skills Fund­ing Agency and the bank.

“We have worked closely with them to re­po­si­tion an af­ford­able debt that we can man­age.”

West Kent and Ash­ford Col­lege are a sep­a­rate le­gal en­tity within the Had­low Col­lege Group, with its 600 staff con­tin­u­ing to run the sites.

East Kent Col­lege has in­cor­po­rated 188 in­com­ing staff and is hir­ing an­other 40 peo­ple fol­low­ing the takeover.

Folke­stone and Hythe MP Damian Collins and East Kent Col­lege prin­ci­pal Gra­ham Razey af­ter the of­fi­cial takeover of the old K Col­lege site in Shorn­cliffe Road

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