On Tuesday 29 November, the Area-based Review (ABR) for Sussex will be published. This includes the recommendation that Chichester College should ‘explore the potential for partnership with (an)other college(s)’. The same Review will conclude that ‘the preferred option for Central Sussex College should be a merger with a strong college.’ Both colleges are now actively exploring a merger with the support of Government and the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Merger discussions are still in the early stages and no formal due diligence has been carried out, however, both colleges believe there are synergies and opportunities to explore. The merger has the potential to benefit large numbers of students across the South East of England and create the largest college group in Sussex.
Sarah Wright (Principal & CEO of Central Sussex College) and Shelagh Legrave (Principal & CEO of Chichester College) issued a joint statement:
“We believe that a merger between our colleges will create opportunities around financial sustainability and ensure a diverse and employer led curriculum to meet local business and community needs.
“We remain committed to ensuring quality teaching and learning and believe that collaboration provides the opportunity to grow income, share costs and work in broader geographical areas.”
For discussions to proceed, a comprehensive due diligence process will take place which will include a full and detailed consultation with all stakeholders. Staff at both colleges were informed in briefings on Monday.
In 2015, The Department for Education set out how the Government would support a restructure of the post-16 education and training sector through a series of Area-based Reviews. The Government stated that each ABR shall ‘establish the appropriate set of institutions to offer high quality provision based on the current and future needs of learners and employers within the local area’. This would mean a move towards ‘fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient colleges’ with greater collaboration and financial stability.