Gazelle rocked by second founder college departure

A second founder college has pulled out of Gazelle and will not be renewing the £35k membership fee.

New College Nottingham (NCN) opted out of the group, along with Bath College, which joined in 2014 and also said it wouldn’t be coughing up for next year’s membership.

NCN becomes the second college involved in founding the group in 2011 to leave the group, after FE Week revealed last month that North Hertfordshire College was “no longer an active member”. An NCN spokesperson said: “NCN can confirm that it has given notice to cease its membership of Gazelle following a review of all its memberships this year.

“The college is focussed on improving quality and delivering a sustainable FE proposition for Nottingham.”

Bath College principal Matt Atkinson said: “The college’s Gazelle membership ends on July 31, 2015.”

Since January Gazelle has been carrying out a membership review that takes into account its fee structure, with Middlesbrough College, The Sheffield College, Peterborough Regional College and Gloucestershire College having quit the group the end of last year. They were soon followed by Lewisham Southwark College in January.

Mr Atkinson said the college had “actively” participated in the review. He added: “The college has derived many benefits from membership of the group and by taking part in the review we were looking … to see how these offerings could be developed on an affordable basis, albeit through a non-membership route.”

Gazelle, which claims to boost colleges’ entrepreneurial focus, has faced criticism for failing to produce evidence of a return on members’ public financial investment, which has topped £3.5m in total. Its chief executive, Fintan Donohue, said the group was “disappointed” by the latest departures.

He said: “Both colleges have made significant contributions to the Gazelle Colleges Group.” He added the review would help the organisation “better reflect the pressures facing colleges”.

The departures of both college leaves just three of the five founding colleges — City College Norwich, Warwickshire College, Gateshead College — as well as 13 ordinary members. Of these, Glasgow Kelvin College, Cambridge Regional College, Activate Learning, City of Liverpool College and Carlisle College all said they were waiting for the outcome of the membership review before confirming whether or not they would remain in the group.

Amersham and Wycombe College, Preston’s College, Plymouth College and Barking and Dagenham College declined to council.

No-one from South West College, Highbury College or Cardiff and Vale College was available for comment.