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Further Education Mergers and Partnerships

This policy and management briefing contains presentations from college principals and leading experts on mergers and partnerships in further education. With the government encouraging college mergers, and competition increasing across the sector, it is vital for senior further education professionals to look at ways to ensure the future success of their colleges. This briefing addresses the opportunities that exist in the sector for outsourcing or sharing services, and the various models of merger, cooperation, networking and collaboration that can enable college leaders to protect and improve their front-line provision. Detailed case-studies analyse the key ingredients in successful mergers, and how internal communications can best be managed during the merger process. A case study of an unsuccessful merger is also included to demonstrate the pitfalls that should be avoided.

The legal aspects of mergers and partnerships in the FE sector Glynne Stanfield | partner, Eversheds; author, Preparing Colleges For The Future
This presentation outlines the trends in college governance and structure seen by Eversheds, who have worked with two-thirds of the UK's FE colleges. It gives a detailed account of the various collaborative models being used, and touches on the relationship between providers of FE, HE and schools, as well as private sector involvement, funding sources and international development. It also looks at the government's 'Big Society' agenda and the implications this has for models of college governance.

Drivers and critical success factors when considering mergers and partnerships Martin Sim | principal and chief executive, Salford City College
lford City College's experience of undergoing a Type-B merger is analysed in this case-study. The presentation looks at the college's position pre-merger, the city context in which the merger took place, and the initial catalyst for entering negotiations. It points out the advantages for learners, recruitment, diversity, and for the college structure of the merger which eventually took place, and the issues which still have to be addressed. It also looks at how to retain an institution's identity and financial size in this situation.

New style partnerships, collaborations and federations Bryn Davies | principal, Ystrad Mynach College; chair, Niace Dysgu Cymru
This presentation focuses on Wales, which since the advent of the Welsh Assembly in 1999 has developed a history of successful partnership working. It gives the context in which collaborations and mergers have taken place, and provides an overview of current and proposed mergers in Wales, including some formal collaboration between FE and HE providers. The presentation looks at the review of FE governance and the structure of education currently being undertaken in Wales, and the 14-19 Education Measure and the college 'transformation programme' which calls for a reduction in the number of corporate entities offering FE.

HE and FE mergers Dr Ian Tunbridge OBE | consultant; former deputy vice-chancellor, Thames Valley University; executive, Association for Collaborative Provision of HE in FE (ACP)
This addresses the pros and cons of FE-HE mergers, and examines the problematic merger of Thames Valley University and Reading College. It tells the story of the merger from the university's acquisition of the college to the problems encountered by the two institutions which led to the unpicking of the merger five years later. The presentation analyses the reasons for this failure and the risk factors to be aware of when looking at a potential merger. It takes an in-depth look at how a merger can go wrong, from basic divergence of missions to various financial, organisational and academic mistakes that can be made. Finally, it suggests other, lower-risk ways to collaborate.

Efficiency savings and shared services Peter Birkett, principal and chief executive, Barnfield Federation
This presentation explains how the Barnfield Federation was formed and outlines its plans for the future. The advantages of a central management team, and other services shared between the federation's institutions, are set out. As an academy sponsor, the federation's objectives include raising standards and providing value-for-money support services - the latter being enabled by its size and purchasing power. Future plans include consolidated governance, further federal expansion in FE and HE, and international developments.

A case study: Stockport College building successful co-operative and mutual businesses. An insight into mutual pathfinders Lynn Merilion, principal, Stockport College
With an introduction provided by Mervyn Wilson, principal and chief executive, The Co-operative College, this case-study explores co-operative and mutual models as alternatives to mergers. The co-operative is set up to meet the needs of its members, and combines value-driven social goals with private-sector business efficiency. Lynn Merilion takes viewers through her decision to ensure Stockport College serves the community and is a part of it. She looks at how to engage stakeholders, and the creation of Stockport's 'Community Benefit Society'. Finally, she considers co-operative alternatives to larger corporations, which can provide opportunities for greater stakeholder engagement in college governance.

What's on now:
Involvement and communication with staff and students David Byrne, principal and chief executive, Southgate College
This presentation draws on the experience of Barnet and Southgate colleges in the process leading up to a merger, to give a comprehensive picture of how internal communications should be approached throughout this process. It emphasises the importance of keeping staff and students involved from start to finish, and taking a 'hearts and minds' approach to both groups. Starting early, inviting staff to strategic meetings, developing a communications strategy for other stakeholders such as parents and employers, and creating subject working-groups for students are among the suggestions given for a harmonious merger.

Panel discussion: Impact on staff, learners and other stakeholders Steve McCormack | education journalist
Panellists: Dan Taubman, senior education officer, University and College Union (UCU); Paul Lawrence, director and head of Further Education, KPMG LLP (UK); Janice Shiner, director, WCL. The discussion touches on a range of issues, including the difficulties involved in outsourcing and shared services, the problems of negotiating different inspection frameworks when merging HE and FE institutions, the importance of focusing on performance improvement, and the points to consider when approaching a merger. The panellists take questions from the audience on private providers and curriculum delivery; the college as a community asset, and helping colleges with in-house improvement as an alternative to mergers.


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