End in sight for K College sale saga

The sale of troubled K College looks to be over with the announcement of two “preferred providers”.

Land-based Hadlow College and East Kent College, in Thanet, are expected to take on campuses in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford; and Dover and Folkestone, respectively.

We now have six months’ work before the new and enlarged Hadlow Group is launched on August 1.

It brings an end to the year-long saga over the break-up and sale of the 15,000-learner K College, which was slapped with an inadequate grading by Ofsted in December. It said continuing uncertainty over the college’s future was damaging learners’ progress.

Paul Hannan, principal at the outstanding-rated Hadlow College, said: “Our ambition is to include the sites as part of the Hadlow College Group while building on the individual brand and status of each campus.”

He added: “We now have six months’ work before the new and enlarged Hadlow Group is launched on August 1.

“Intensive work will now start — in cooperation with the Skills Funding Agency [SFA] and the Education Funding Agency — to arrive at a financial solution that will help us to deliver outstanding teaching and learning across the new Hadlow College Group in entirety.”

Graham Razey, principal at East Kent College, which was rated as good by Ofsted, said: “We are very pleased as this announcement removes the uncertainty over the provision of FE for thousands of students in Dover and Shepway, and across East Kent as a whole.

“We will ensure high-quality, vocational and technical education programmes for students in this economically improving part of Kent through well-funded and well-managed centres of learning.”
The 800-worker K College, which was formed of a merger between West Kent College and South Kent College in 2010, is being dismantled after it ran up at least £15m in debt to the SFA.

It is unclear whether any of K College’s debts to the agency will be transferred, although interim K College principal Phil Frier told FE Week last month that commercial debt would move over.

He said: “We made a commitment to students from the outset that no matter what name was given to their college, their education would continue, and we are proud to have delivered that.”

The transfers are expected to be complete by the start of the next academic year and a public consultation on the dissolution of the K College corporation, in line with the transfer of its provision to new providers, is expected to launch soon.

The SFA declined to comment on whether it had offered financial incentives to take on the debt-ridden college.

An SFA spokesperson said: “All parties will be carrying out due diligence and working together to ensure the smooth transfer of provision ready for August 1, 2014.”