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Doncaster College & North Lindsey College Proposed Merger

Posted: 6th April 2017

What are you announcing today?

Today we are confirming that North Lindsey College and Doncaster College are exploring the option of a possible merger.  We are at an early stage in discussions, but we believe a merger would strengthen learning opportunities for students across these two localities, building a network of skills development and training that would benefit businesses and communities, supporting future employment needs within and across regional boundaries.

What would this mean for students at these colleges?

The merged organisation would be a major regional educational provider.  The curriculum available would span further and higher education, professional and technical qualifications, apprenticeships, adult and vocational learning.  Students would have access to a huge range of training and learning opportunities, with focused support to gain skills and qualifications that will support their individual journeys to employment.

Would this impact staff at either college?

This merger would bring together 1,500 staff within a large, financially robust college, able to invest across its curriculum and infrastructure.  This would allow employees to share best practice across teaching and operational functions, and the scale and scope of the merged organisation would open up new career progression routes for employees.

Could a merger mean that either college campus would close?

No.  Senior leaders from Doncaster College and North Lindsey College support the principle that both colleges would be equal partners in a merged organisation, retaining their separate campuses and individual identities, while collaborating to build on current strengths and ensure that sustainable, high quality teaching and learning provision continues into the future.

Would this change the vision or values for either college?

Doncaster College and North Lindsey College already have very closely matched visions and values, which has been an important factor in understanding how suitable these organisations are for a potential merger.  Carrying on in the spirit of these existing values will be fundamental to a merged college.

Why are you considering merging with a college outside your traditional geographical region?

Both colleges believe that a formal partnership with another college is the right step, and that it is important to find a partner that is closely aligned in terms of vision and aspirations, rather than based on geography.  Both colleges want to collaborate with a like-minded organisation that will build on existing strengths while creating new opportunities, flexibility and capacity.  Leadership at both colleges believe that this merger would be an excellent fit with the curriculum, operations and future direction that each college aspires to follow, ensuring the existing distinctiveness and strengths of the individual colleges can be retained, while benefiting students, employers, the wider communities and broader economic region.

 Will the curriculum change at either college?

There will be no immediate changes to the curriculum at either college. Current courses will continue, and prospective students should apply for courses in the normal way.

Would students be expected to travel to a different campus to continue their studies?

We do not anticipate this being the case and expect current curriculum options to continue at both campuses.  However, we hope that the merger would mean increased choice for all our students.  Some students may eventually choose to pursue subjects across both campuses to access specialised options that support their skills development and employment aspirations.

Who would be in charge of the merged organisation?

It’s too early to say, however both colleges have strong leadership and governance, and the approach to leadership of the newly merged organisation will be a key factor in discussions going forward.

Why can’t the colleges just continue as they are?

The further and higher education landscape is changing across the whole country.  Demographic fluctuations, financial pressures, reduced funding and changes to skills, training and educational opportunities mean that colleges must adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of students, employers and the wider communities.  Collaboration and partnership across different organisations is becoming standard practice and finding the right partner is essential to future-proof both colleges.

If a merger happens, when will it take place?

We anticipate that formal consultation about the proposed merger would take place between early Summer and Autumn (2017).  If the merger is then approved, we would hope that it would take place later this year.

Who will make the decision to merge and how will a decision be reached?

Various parties are involved in assessing whether this merger would be viable and beneficial.  This includes regional organisations such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, as well as national bodies including the Department for Education, the Skills Funding Agency and the FE Commissioner.  Each college will also ensure that local interested parties, including MPs, local councils, educational bodies and business leaders, are aware of the proposal and involved in the formal consultation process.  Students, staff and local community members are also invited to take part in the consultation.  All comments received as part of this process will be taken into account when determining whether or not the merger should proceed.

Following this formal consultation, the leadership of both colleges will independently determine whether they wish to go ahead with the merger.  If both colleges agree to proceed and all financial and legal requirements are in place, the proposal to merge is assessed by the Secretary of State for Education.

Are you talking to unions about this?

Yes, we are keeping staff and student unions at both colleges up to date on these discussions.

Are you talking to local businesses about this?

Yes, we are talking to local businesses and business groups across both localities about this.  We are keen to reassure our business partners that our partnership arrangements will continue unchanged, and to invite businesses who are not already working with us to make contact to explore future opportunities.

Is the closure of Doncaster College’s High Melton campus connected to this proposed merger?

No. The decision to close the High Melton campus was taken independently of this merger proposal.  This was an operational decision to consolidate the College curriculum and student life within the main purpose built campus in Doncaster town centre.

Could the merged organisation become a university?

Both colleges recognise the value that university status would bring to the area and this would be an aspiration of the merged organisation.

What happens now?

Discussions are expected to continue in the coming months, with a formal consultation due to take place later this year.  At that point, students, employees, local communities, businesses and other interested parties will be invited to give their opinion on the proposed merger.   Further details will be available from both college websites in due course.