The merger of two further education (FE) colleges has been given the go-ahead.

Stroud College and Filton College will, from February 1 next year, be legally known as South Gloucestershire and Stroud College after the proposed merger was agreed today by John Hayes MP, secretary of state for further education, skills and lifelong learning.

Both Principals – Kevin Hamblin from Filton College and Dr Beri Hare from Stroud College – have welcomed the decision as an endorsement of the colleges’ shared ambition to improve choices and create new opportunities for learners of all ages.

John Huggett, chair of governors at Filton College , said: ‘The Secretary of State’s decision to approve the merger gives us the green light to join together two high-performing colleges so that we can innovate and grow.

“It is a merger of equals, with each college in a strong financial position and well-matched in terms of our ambitions to increase learning – and life – opportunities for all our students.”

He added: “The merger means we will be able to expand our engineering and sports provision at Stroud and introduce other new courses. Across our campuses, we will focus on apprenticeships and the skills demanded by employers.

“We will be sharing resources to reach into the rural communities south of Stroud and north of Filton – many of which are among the most deprived in the country – to offer employability skills and improve the education choices for people living there.”

Mike Farmer, chair of governors at Stroud College, added: “The case for a merger was strong and everyone has worked hard for it – I am delighted by the decision.

“My thanks go to all the people of the Stroud area for their support which undoubtedly helped the minister make the right decision, and to college staff who have continued with their day-to-day jobs through this period of uncertainty.

“The new college will offer significantly enhanced opportunities for local communities and businesses, and I am sure that people from Stroud will play a major role in how it develops over the next few years.”

The next stage will see the creation of a new combined Board of Governors, elected from the present governing bodies of both colleges, and including staff and student representatives.

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