London mega-merger to create England’s third biggest college group

Moves are afoot to create one of the largest college groups in the country by joining four institutions from across east London and Essex.

New City College and Epping Forest College in Essex will launch a consultation tomorrow on their plans to merge from August.

The group has also confirmed that it’s in discussions with both Havering College and Havering Sixth Form College about a further link-up early next year.

A spokesperson for New City, which currently includes Hackney Community College, Tower Hamlets College and Redbridge College, told FE Week that there is “a commitment” from all the corporations “to explore a merger”.

Paul Wakeling, principal of grade three-rated Havering SFC, said he had “approved in principle” a proposal to join forces with New City and Havering.

“This is at an early stage and means that we are committed to exploring and developing a three-way merger,” he added.

Any decision “to merge or not would come at a later date after full consultation and due diligence”.

A spokesperson for Havering College, currently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, said that “the combined expertise and experience of all three colleges aims to bring long-term benefits to students and employers and enhance the local community”.

No date has been set for the merger to go ahead, although a New City spokesperson said it would be no earlier than January 2019.

If it all goes ahead, the resulting institution would have a combined turnover of £108 million, based on the individual colleges’ 2016/17 incomes.

That would make it the third largest college group in the country, behind only NCG and the LTE Group, which includes Manchester College.

Hackney Community College and Tower Hamlets College joined forces in August 2016.

The merged college formally changed its name to New City College in February the following year, ahead of the merger with Redbridge College on April 1, 2017.

It’s currently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, based on an inspection of Tower Hamlets College in December 2013.

The group had an income of £57 million and 15,500 learners in 2016/17, according to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s accounts.

Meanwhile, Havering College’s income was £23.9 million while the SFC had a turnover of £14 million over the year; the two had 5,800 and 2,700 learners respectively.

FE Week reported at the beginning of April that troubled Epping Forest College was set to join forces with New City College from August 1.

The college, rated ‘requires improvement’ at its last inspection in December, has been in administered status for over a year, following intervention by the FE commissioner.

Its income was £13.9 million in 2016/17, and it had 2,200 learners.

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