Cash-strapped Carlisle College has been in talks with a view to join the Newcastle College Group (NCG).
A spokesperson said the merger proposal had been put forward to strengthen and further develop Carlisle College’s provision and meet the needs of the local community at a time when small colleges are facing “challenges in a difficult funding environment”.
In January, FE Week reported that Carlisle College, which caters for more than 2,000 students, turned to its county council for a £700,000 loan to help address a “need for short-term cash flow support”.
A spokesperson told FE Week that the proposed merger with NCG would not have an impact on the loan, and it will still be repaid to Cumbria County Council in May 2016 as planned.
The proposal is now moving into detailed discussions with NCG and the takeover, if agreed, could happen before the next academic year starts in September.
If the takeover goes ahead, Carlisle College will keep its name and campus site.
Carlisle College principal, Moira Tattersall, said: “This is a really exciting time for the college and for Carlisle. NCG has a fantastic reputation for innovation and professionalism, and becoming part of the group will enhance our ability to respond to new skills needs in the area.
“The college will continue to do all the things it is known for and will have the resources and stability to develop new opportunities and address the needs and priorities that we cannot tackle alone. There is an opportunity to learn from NCG’s Aviation Training Centre at Newcastle Airport and their Rail Academy and see how this can help develop the colleges offer in Carlisle.”
Chief executive of NCG, Joe Docherty, said: “We are delighted that Carlisle College wants to join NCG. We share their focus on providing what employers and students in Carlisle need to develop skills for their local economy, and we are pleased to be able to back that with the expertise and capacity of a major national group.”
The consultation on this plan will coincide with the government-led area review of Cumbrian colleges starting next month.