Former national college to officially close down

NCATI, formerly the National College for High Speed Rail, will cease to exist by July 31, 2023

NCATI, formerly the National College for High Speed Rail, will cease to exist by July 31, 2023

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One of the government’s former flagship national colleges has confirmed it will close its doors for good this summer after failing to find a sustainable future.

The National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure (NCATI), which has campuses in Birmingham and Doncaster and was formerly known as the National College for High Speed Rail, will cease direct delivery and wind down by July 31, 2023.

The decision was announced today following a two-month consultation that explored alternative business models in the face of long-standing financial challenges caused by insufficient student numbers.

In total 42 staff will lose their jobs and almost 170 learners and apprentices will be affected.

Interim principal and chief executive, Lowell Williams, said: “Unfortunately, we have been unable to identify a sustainable future for NCATI as a direct deliverer of education, and therefore we have made the difficult decision to discontinue delivery of learning.

“Our first priority now is to ensure all our learners have the opportunity to complete or continue their studies.”

Dependent on their location, the college’s 24 learners on study programmes will transfer to either DN Colleges Group or to South & City College Birmingham; while 81 apprentices with an end date beyond 31 July 2023 will transfer to other providers.

NCATI’s 25 higher education learners and another 38 apprentices will complete their programme with NCATI this academic year.

Williams said the Education and Skills Funding Agency has “expressed a desire” for NCATI’s buildings and land – which had a net book value of £19.5 million at July 31, 2022 – to remain an asset for the FE sector and the rail industry, as originally envisaged.

NCATI will “continue to work with the ESFA, City of Doncaster Council and Birmingham City Council in determining the future use of the buildings”. The board is also “continuing to explore collaborative models that might be developed as a legacy to NCATI’s original mission and vision”, Williams added.

The college has had a torrid time since being opened by then-education secretary Justine Greening in 2017 as the National College for High Speed Rail.

It struggled to recruit learners due to delays in announcing contractors for the High Speed 2 railway project, which meant employers were unable to commit to the apprentice volumes they had originally anticipated.

The college had to be propped up by millions of pounds of government bailout funding for years. FE Week exclusively revealed in February 2020 that NCATI had also taken Ofsted to court over an ‘inadequate’ report, blowing £73,000 on the legal challenge, which it eventually abandoned.

The college was dissolved and effectively taken over by the University of Birmingham in February 2021 following a structure and prospects appraisal.

NCATI made an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) loss of £2.7 million in 2021/22, according to its latest accounts.

Williams said today: “The NCATI board, with support from the University of Birmingham, has resolved to discontinue the direct delivery of its further and higher education programmes, and to wind down the College by 31 July 2023.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to say how very much we regret the outcome of the consultation process. I wish to extend my sincere thanks to all our staff for their continued professionalism, support and commitment to our learners and their fellow colleagues, in what has understandably been and will no doubt continue to be a period of uncertainty.”

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One comment

  1. Mark pike

    Disgusting waste of money. And yet government stands by and will let lots of ITP’s close as they end traineeships and provide no alternative. Still no level playing field.