Cornwall College out of intervention after eight years

The college group fell into difficulties about a decade ago

The college group fell into difficulties about a decade ago

28 May 2024, 17:13

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The government has withdrawn its financial intervention at The Cornwall College Group (TCCG) after eight years.

Withdrawal of the financial notice to improve (FTNI) was confirmed by the Department for Education on Friday.

However, while the college has welcomed the news, its most recent financial health rating remains ‘requires improvement’ as it grappled with a deficit of £2.3 million last year.

A spokesperson for TCCG said it is “delighted” with the outcome, which comes after five years of “transformative leadership” under John Evans, who plans to stand down in July.

They added: “The Cornwall College Group is now in a strong position, having under John’s tenure secured Ofsted ‘good’, [teaching excellence framework] silver, a multimillion-pound campus redevelopment in St Austell and establishing ourselves as the top performing [general further education] college for education and training in Cornwall. 

“It’s therefore a great time to transition to the new principal and chief executive Rob Bosworth, who will steer the next phase of growth and achievement for the group.”

A decade of financial challenges

TCCG has been in financial trouble for about a decade – beginning with a turbulent period that included the rapid restructure of multiple campuses into a single college group, shrinking funding and learner numbers.

When the Further Education Commissioner first issued the FTNI in 2016, the college group had recorded large operating deficits for two years running.

Its then principal and chief executive Amarjit Basi resigned the same year, amid the the reality of the college group’s acute financial problems and criticism from the University and College Union (UCU) for his £229,000 salary package.

It received an ‘inadequate’ financial health rating after defaulting on loans which the Commissioner said had been taken out at high, fixed interest rates.

The group turned a corner in 2019 after a £30 million government bailout and the appointment of Evans.

In a bid to balance its books, the group sold its 35-year-old Saltash campus – affecting about 500 students – in 2020.

Group’s financial health still ‘requires improvement’

The Commissioner confirmed the withdrawal of the FNTI on May 24 .

Unlike when such notices are issued, they did not publish a letter or report detailing why it is no longer concerned about the group.

According to its most recent accounts, for the year ending in July 2023, TCCG had about 12,000 learners – about half of whom were adults.

It operates across seven campuses in Devon and Cornwall, under five “core brands” include Bicton and Duchy land-based colleges, Falmouth Marine School as well as general, engineering and business focused campuses.

It had a turnover of £55 million, had assets of £39 million and “no long-term debt”.

However, the group’s self-assessed financial health rating remained ‘requires improvement’ and it recorded a net deficit of £2.3 million due to “lower than budgeted” learner enrolments and “extraordinarily high levels of inflation”.

The consolidated loss for the year would have been higher without more than £1 million in pension adjustments and a staff “restructuring exercise”.

For about a month, TCCG held the longest-running open financial notice after City of Wolverhampton College’s notice was withdrawn in late April after 12 years.

Moulton College, which has been on notice for seven years, is now the commissioner’s longest-running financial concern.

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