The provision, debts and estate of a troubled Kent college being split up and sold off in pieces have been laid bare in a catalogue for what has been described as the first sale “of its kind in the UK”.
The full extent of the debts — and assets — at K College are listed in a sales prospectus from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Education Funding Agency (EFA) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
It lists a fixed-rate loan of £10m with maturity in 2038 and a shorter-term loan of £2.9m at the college’s Tonbridge site; a fixed-rate loan of £1.8m at its Ashford site and a fixed-rate loan of £500,000, both maturing in 2024.
This open competition signifies a bright future for both students across Kent and our own staff.”
Seven parts are on offer. There’s 16 to 19 provision in Dover, Folkestone, or Ashford, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells grouped together; apprenticeship and 19+ provision in Dover, Folkestone, or, again, Ashford, Tonbridge and Tunbridge together; or HEFCE directly-funded provision at Ashford and Tonbridge.
Fifty providers have already signed up to attend open days, on May 22 and 23, at two of the college’s five campuses.
Principal Phil Frier said: “There is a lot of interest from other colleges, training providers and universities in bidding for the work currently operating across all five towns.
“This is great news and ensures the continuation of the college’s provision for the foreseeable future.
“This open competition signifies a bright future for both students across Kent and our own staff.”
The break-up comes after the college, formed following a merger between West Kent College and South Kent College in 2010, ran up multi-million pound debts and was issued with a notice of concern by the SFA.
Mr Frier later conceded that the merger, which took place before he was in post, hadn’t worked and proposed splitting the college in two.
He suggested one half should incorporate the Dover and Folkestone campuses; the other Ashford, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
The proposal was approved by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock after an independent review.
The college will continue until July next year when its work will be taken over and renewed by a new provider or providers.
Bidders will “need to demonstrate” they had taken into account the “financial liabilities” set out in the prospectus, which also outlines conditions for repayment of SFA advances. It asks potential bidders if they’re interested in either provision only or provision and assets [buildings].
The chief executive of the SFA, with the EFA, will lead the tendering process — described by a K College spokesperson as the “first competition of its kind” in an FE college — and will decide winning bids.
The first open day is in Tonbridge. The second is in Folkestone.