Skills Minister approves Bicton College merger following FE Commissioner advice

Skills Minister Nick Boles has approved plans for Devon-based Bicton College to merge with the Cornwall College Group (TCCG), FE Week can reveal.

FE Commissioner Dr David Collins inspected the specialist land-based college in March after the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) raised concern about its “financial health”.

He concluded Bicton, which was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2012, needed to merge or form a federation with another institution and consulted with college governors and senior staff including principal David Henley over the following six months to decide on the best way forward. The college announced the decision to merge with TCCG this afternoon.

Bicton board chairman Jeremy Yabsley said: “After listening to all of the potential partners’ proposals, I have formed a very favourable opinion of TCCG governors and leadership, and believe that they have the energy and a real desire to take the land-based specialism forward.”

A Bicton spokesperson said it was “too early to say whether there will be any impact on jobs as a result of the merger”.

Philip Rees, chair of the TCCG board, said: “We are hugely excited to be playing a major role in the future development of Bicton College and connecting it to key partnerships to deliver world class land-based education in Devon. Both organisations bring extensive links and a shared passion for supporting the land-based sector in the South West.”

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: “We fully support the decision for Bicton College to partner with TCCG. This partnership will work to secure the future of the college and land-based education in Devon and the wider South-West.

“The funding agencies will now work closely with the colleges to ensure an effective and smooth transition period. The FE Commissioner will return to Bicton College once the transition has been completed to review progress with implementing the recommendations from his assessment.”

See FE Week edition 117, dated Monday, November 10, for more.