Plans for a merger between the  NCG (formerly Newcastle College Group) and Northumberland College have collapsed.

The Northumberland College Corporation met last night and agreed to “rescind” the decision it made on the July 13 to merge with NCG, which offered an investment of £25 million over the next four years.

However, Northumberland College Corporation’s said the merger proposal “had materially changed and a merger with NCG no longer represented the best solution” for students, staff, stakeholders and the community.

They also say they received a letter from John Hayes, the minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning, on Tuesday and the “views he expressed also formed a major part of the decision” made by the Corporation.

Northumberland College Corporation’s board will now consider other alternative options to secure the future of the college.

Chris Todd, principal of Northumberland College said: “I firmly believe that the Corporation have the interests of  learners and the local community at heart.

“This decision will allow the college to move forward positively, creating a solution that will better meet the needs of students, staff, stakeholders and the local community.

“Students, staff and stakeholders did not want this merger to happen.

“The Corporation have listened to these concerns and have made the right choice in the interests of Northumberland.”

Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive of NCG, said “We are disappointed Northumberland College has rejected our merger proposal.

“We remain committed to supporting learners in the North East and we are considering an alternative strategy to give learners in the County the opportunity to gain new skills in an up-to-date, clean, pleasant and safe environment.”

NCG’s investment plans included updating Northumberland College’s Ashington site and a new campus at Cramlington.

They also planned to replace the agricultural training facilities at Kirkley Hall and create modern job-focused teaching facilities on a real working farm.

Dame Fisher said: “NCG made a generous merger offer to Northumberland College. The Governors of Northumberland decided to reject our offer. We cannot comment on their reasons for doing so.”

However, Mr Todd added: “Northumberland College has a strong business plan going forward and we have demonstrated substantial improvement over the last twelve months.

“This upward trend will continue and I fully expect the college to emerge from this process fighting fit and ready for the challenges that the future will undoubtedly bring.

“Northumberland College is no longer in a desperate situation. The college is stronger than ever, both financially, but also in terms of the quality of its provision.

“Moving forward, the Corporation are keen to build on the firm platform that has been established, creating a progressive college rooted at the heart of the local

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  1. Bob Malarky

    Subject: Message to all staff – merger update

    Dear all,

    I am absolutely delighted to inform you that last night, the Corporation took the bold decision to terminate the merger with the Newcastle College Group.

    The Corporation will now independently consider other options to secure the future of Northumberland College.  This will be focused towards creating a College that is rooted in its local community and that places staff and students at the heart of everything it does.  All I can say on this process is that you need not fear it, as I am confident that we will end up with a great solution for everyone concerned.

    In the mean time, the Corporation are keen to create stability and over the course of the next few months we will look to create a stable and solid management team, particularly at Executive level.  We will also look to address our weaknesses, particularly in MIS where we have a number of vacancies, but also filling roles on a permanent basis within the management team.

    I will arrange for two staff briefings to take place later in the week at both Ashington and Kirkley Hall but wanted you all to be aware of the good news as soon as possible. 

    On a personal note, I have really stuck my neck out to secure this decision and I now need all of you to support me to take the College forward.  I know this College is capable of great things and with your support we can achieve it.

    I look forward to working with you all towards creating an exciting new future for Northumberland College.

    Best wishes,


    Chris Todd
    Director of Finance
    Northumberland College
    College Road
    NE63 9RG
    Tel : 01670 841 228

  2. Sorry, the minister’s letter formed “a major part of the decision”??? I think we’d all be interested in what it said, presumably, “here are your freedoms and flexibilities, do what you want”? surely a minister interested in freedom wouldn’t be telling independant corporations what to do, would he? And shouldn’t the board of governors be paying more attention to what its students and staff want, than what the minister says? I think it’s the right decision for Northumberland, but rather confused at the way it seems to have come about?

  3. Bob Malarky

    A strange time to turn down £25million investment package, I hope that there is a plan B which is actually aimed at and beneficial for the students and community rather than just furthering an individual’s career or political ambitions.

  4. The so called ‘investment’ of £25m was not what it seemed. £5m pension deficit was included in this, with the rest financed by the sale of Northumberland College assets and a huge term loan. NCG were not planning on putting any cash into Northumberland College.

  5. Bob Malarky

    Not on the evidence of Skelmersdale transformation, a failing college, turned around within a year, investment of £42million in a purpose built campus, students flooding in…. NCG all the way…. I certainly wish all at Northumberland the best (as a Northumberland resident myself) but without substantial investment and strong leadership, not desperate pleas of help me, because I stuck my neck out…. I feel the future is bleak for the staff, students and future of Northumberland College.