Itchen College (@ItchenCollege) and City College Southampton have announced today that their proposal to merge will not be taken forward by the Department for Education (@educationgovuk). They have made this announcement with great disappointment after the Education Skills Funding Agency (@ESFAgov) told the colleges that it cannot support the proposed merger because of too much uncertainty around financial viability.
Whilst this is extremely disappointing for both colleges, it will not affect their focus on delivering quality education and training for their communities in Southampton and both are committed to continuing to work collaboratively together for the benefit of Southampton.
Royston Smith, MP for Itchen said;
“I am very disappointed by the news that the ESFA has been unable to support the merger between City College and Itchen College. This merger presented a great opportunity to bring together two well regarded Further Education providers in our city. Technical and vocational courses should be high up on the government agenda and by joining City College with Itchen College, I saw this as a crucial opportunity to partner academic and vocational courses, to create a really strong offer for local people.
“I made it clear to Ministers that I thought this merger was the right way forward. When I met with the Minister about this, they seemed to understand the significance of this, and that is why I am very frustrated to learn that this has been refused by the ESFA.”
Councillor Darren Paffey, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning, said;
"We were very supportive of the merger between City and Itchen Colleges and are deeply disappointed that the government agency has rejected this proposal after so much time and effort put in by all parties. Southampton's colleges open doors of education and opportunity to thousands of learners, and we are determined to continue working with all the colleges to ensure that there is a strong sixth form and Further Education offer in the city.
Grant Dyson, Corporate Communications Team, Education & Skills Funding Agency confirmed;
“We will continue to work with City College Southampton to find a solution and to protect the interests of learners and the local community.”
Sarah Stannard, Principal and CEO of City College Southampton said;
“We are extremely frustrated that the proposed merger with Itchen College has been refused, particularly as this is the third proposal for City College that has been declined by the Department of Education.
“However, we are reassured by the knowledge that the ESFA has told us they are determined to find a sustainable future for Southampton and that they are committed to working with City College and financially supporting us whilst working towards a positive outcome.
“We and all key stakeholders in the city know that City College’s courses and specialist facilities are vital to the future of the economic health of Southampton - we are the first choice college in the area for technical and professional courses for young people and for our specialist apprenticeships.
“We are the largest provider of adult courses and education in the city. Our 250 dedicated and expert staff are committed to giving the 3,500 students and apprentices who study with us each year the opportunity to improve their futures.
“City College has worked collaboratively with each of the proposals put forward over the last five years, and we are determined to find a solution that will provide a sustainable future for Further Education in Southampton.
Alex Scott, Principal and CEO, Itchen College said;
“We share City College’s disappointment that the proposal to merge will not be supported. We stepped forward to work with City College to develop a proposal that would secure vocational and technical education in the city and worked well with City College to this end. While we understand the decision, given the economic uncertainty we all face we are frustrated that the proposal will not go forward, especially as we were seeking to find a solution for the good of the city.
“We remain in a strong and secure position as a stand-alone college and we will continue to develop our provision to meet the needs of the city and its employers, residents and young people. Our commitment to collaborative working across Southampton has been strengthened over the last year and we will continue to work with City College despite the merger proposal not going forward”.