Colleges sent back to drawing board after ‘aggressive’ renaming

Plans for a college name-change that a local MP branded “an aggressive act” towards nearby competitor colleges have been thrown out by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock’s officials.

Worcester College of Technology and New (North East Worcestershire) College are merging from August and wanted to become “Worcestershire College”.

But Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire Sir Peter Luff complained the move would have undermined rival institutions and confused potential learners.

He argued the name would have suggested the college was the leading FE provider in the county.

And it appears Mr Hancock’s officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) agreed. A BIS spokesperson told FE Week: “The request to change the name of North East Worcestershire College to Worcestershire College following the merger with Worcester College of Technology has been declined. All parties have been informed and the decision was taken in line with the department’s name-change guidance.

“The guidance states that a corporation name should not be confusing or misleading and as such should not wrongly suggest regional or national pre-eminence, or imply that a college serves a wider or different area than is the case. We are more than happy to consider a new name-change application.”

Both colleges accepted the decision and said they were now “working with BIS to agree an alternative”.

A spokesperson for both colleges said: “As part of the consultation process, all stakeholders were invited to comment on the name of the merged college.

“We felt that the name ‘Worcestershire College’ reflected the catchment area of our learners as we provide training throughout the county. Unfortunately, the application was unsuccessful.”

Sir Peter had written a strongly-worded email to college bosses before the decision was made. “I strongly oppose the name ‘Worcestershire College’ and have made my position very clear to the government,” he said.

“Sorry to be negative, but it is a grossly insensitive name when you are not the only FE college in the county, but one of three. South Worcestershire and Pershore [which is situated in Worcestershire, but part of Warwickshire College]… are excellent institutions that would be marginalised by the name chosen.

“This county-wide name for a college that only serves part of the county would make their marketing much more difficult and be confusing to potential students. Indeed, it looks a very aggressive act to me — I urge the governors to think again.”

Nobody from South Worcestershire College was available for comment. Warwickshire College declined to comment.