Merger plan investigated by BIS

The proposed merger of two colleges is being investigated over concerns they may not have followed correct procedure, FE Week can reveal.

A six-week formal consultation on the plans for Birmingham Metropolitan College and Stourbridge College launched on January 18.

The merger would see the 12,500-student Stourbridge College dissolve on May 31 with its property, rights and liabilities then transferring to Birmingham Metropolitan, which had more than 26,000 learners two years ago.

A statement on the Birmingham college’s website said they were planning to merge “to become one of the largest and most significant further education providers in the country.”

However, a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) probe has been launched amid concerns the merger could be going ahead too quickly.

We aware of the consultation and are investigating.”

The consultation report is due out by March 20 — the day before governors were expected to rule on the proposals.

The consultation document says a draft order for the dissolution of Stourbridge College would come out the same day as the governors’ decision, with merger taking place on June 1.

A BIS spokesperson said: “We aware of the consultation and are investigating to establish if appropriate processes have been followed.”

A joint statement from the colleges said: “We reject any suggestion due process has not been followed in taking forward the merger process. The processes required by law have been, and are being, strictly observed.

“Views expressed in the consultation will be fully considered in due course and those views and the corporations’ response published.”

The Birmingham college achieved a good grading from Ofsted in March 2011 while Stourbridge got the same grade a fortnight ago.