Area review ignored as central London set for second mega-college merger

Area review ignored as central London set for second mega-college merger

A London college that had been set for a ground-breaking partnership with an adult learning provider has announced plans for an alternative merger.

Kensington and Chelsea College emerged from the central London area review with a recommendation to merge with City Literary Institute, a specialist designated institution.

But today (June 28) the college announced it plans to join forces with Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College instead, with a planned merger date of 2018.

Michelle Sutton, interim principal at KCC, described the college’s new partner as “very strong, well-respected and successful”.

“This announcement is the result of a long and careful process to ensure the best future for students of all ages in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, ensuring good provision in the borough while at the same time drawing on the resources of a larger organisation,” she said.

Garry Phillips, EHWLC principal, said he was “truly excited” about the benefits of the merger for “both students and businesses in the area”.

The opportunities offered by the merged colleges “will prepare students for the very best chance of career success, help secure the future of further education across London and make a significant contribution to the economic development of our region,” he said.

EHWLC, which has around 13,000 learners, bounced back to good from a previous inadequate rating when it was inspected by Ofsted in May.

Meanwhile, KCC, which received a grade three in its most recent inspection in March, has around 2,500 learners.

The proposals will lead to the creation of another London ‘mega college’.

City and Islington College and Westminster Kingsway joined forces in August 2016, creating a combined institution with an estimated 27,000 learners.

Tower Hamlets and Hackney Community colleges also merged in August 2016 to form the 17,000- learner New City College Group, with 3,000-learner Redbridge College joining them in April.

And in May the College of North West London and the City of Westminster College announced that they intended to pair up from August.

The change of plans makes the previously planned merger between KCC and City Lit – news of which came to light in November last year – the 13th area review-recommended partnership to fall apart.

Had it gone ahead the partnership would have been the first merger between a general FE college and a specialist designated institution in recent years.

SDIs differ from general FE colleges as they are independently constituted charities typically delivering short courses or residential provision for adults.

The report into the central London area review, published in February, said the merged college would “offer a diverse programme with wide appeal to attract a broad demographic, including people who can afford to pay fees and funded learners”.

A spokesperson for City Lit said the colleges had jointly decided to call off the merger in February, following discussions.

“We share very similar values but at this moment in time there just isn’t a compelling enough reason to merge,” she said.

KCC was rocked by scandal earlier this year when it emerged that former principal Mark Brickley had racked up bills of £60,000 in overseas trips.

Those visits had been intended to recruit international students – but it wasn’t clear if any actually signed up as a result.

That news came after Mr Brickley resigned with immediate effect in October last year.

His shock departure was for “personal reasons” a KCC spokesperson said at the time.