Talks are under way for a London-based college to de-merge from its northern-based parent group, FE Week has learnt.
Lewisham College is understood to be in negotiations to be transferred from NCG to its neighbour London South East Colleges (LSEC).
In a joint statement, the two college groups said: “In view of the government’s levelling up agenda and the vital role that further education is set to play in this, NCG and London South East Colleges are engaging in early discussions regarding FE provision in Lewisham and opportunities to collaborate.”
“No decisions have yet been made,” the statements added, however, “discussions are wide-ranging and we look forward to exploring all options together, with a shared focus on continued high-quality FE provision in south-east London.”
London South East Colleges already operates across eight campuses in the London sub-region. According to its website, the group, through its constituent local colleges, can trace its roots in south-east London back to the early 1900s.
In the event a “re-merger” does happen, it will be something Lewisham College will be fairly used to.
Lewisham College, which has campuses in Lewisham and Deptford, south-east London, has been subject to several controversial changes over the past ten years. Its merger with Southwark College in 2012 sparked “fierce criticism” from the University and College Union at the time over the near £300,000 cost of its rebrand to ‘Lesoco’.
Two years later the brand was dropped and it became Lewisham Southwark College. In the years that followed, the college endured two consecutive grade four Ofsted inspection results, becoming the first – but not the last – college do so, and then faced local opposition to proposals to merge with Newcastle-based NCG.
In April 2017 the merger went ahead. Then, 18 months later, NCG announced that it would be splitting Lewisham Southwark College back to two distinct institutions – still part of NCG, but with their own principals.
UCU reps at both colleges wrote to the FE Commissioner in April 2019 claiming that the NCG merger had resulted in mismanagement and a deterioration of terms of conditions.
They called for the FE Commissioner to investigate whether the colleges’ future “could lie elsewhere”. NCG said UCU’s claims were “wholly inaccurate”.
FE Week understands that Southwark College will remain part of NCG.