Merger partner announced for cash-strapped college

A cash-strapped college that was recently told by the FE Commissioner that it urgently needed to merge in order to survive has finally found a partner.

Stratford-upon-Avon College, in Warwickshire, has today announced that it will merge with Solihull College & University Centre, with the launch date targeted for January 1, 2018.

Stratford was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in March 2015, but ran into money problems this year after planned projects which were expected to bring in new funds came to a halt.

As previously reported by FE Week, the college was then forced to turn to the Skills Funding Agency for a bail out after Lloyds Bank refused to provide it temporary financial support.

Richard Atkins, the FE Commissioner, visited Stratford-upon-Avon in March after the college was hit with a financial notice of concern from the SFA at the end of February.

Mr Atkins said its only option to survive was by pursuing a merger.

The college’s principal, Andrew Cropley, said he was “delighted” to have finalised a partnership with Solihull College, with the “full support” of the FE Commissioner.

“The merger will allow us to develop deeper partnerships with local employers and to better serve the community of Stratford-upon-Avon,” Mr Cropley said. “As part of a larger organisation, we are assured financial security which will enable us to fully invest in our students.

“At the same time, Stratford-upon-Avon College is committed to retaining its unique identity; we will continue to support local learners, businesses and the wider community by offering a broad FE curriculum on the Stratford site.”

Stratford chair Lord Digby Jones has previously said he would step down once a partner had been found for the troubled college, but Mr Atkins’ report, published in May, indicated the resignations could be more widespread.

John Callaghan, principal at Solihull College & University Centre, said he was “very pleased” that his college was selected by Stratford-upon-Avon as their merger partner.

“We each possess unique areas of expertise and this merger will enable us to maximise our combined strengths for the benefit of all students and staff,” he added. “I look forward to a successful combined future.”

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