College courts suitable merger partners

August 1, 1997

AIREDALE and Wharfedale College is seeking to merge with local institutions to combat a deficit and address serious management weaknesses.

The Leeds college was forced to seek a merger after a Further Education Funding Council for England report awarded it the lowest possible 5 rating for governance and management and a 4 for quality assurance. The college also has a substantial but undisclosed accumulated debt.

So far the college has received responses from five neighbouring colleges that are interested in merging. Two of them, including Bradford and Ilkley Community College and another undisclosed institution, meet Airedale and Wharfedale's criteria for a one-to-one merger.

The others, Thomas Danby, Joseph Priestley and Leeds College of Technology, fail to meet the criteria for a single merger, but Airedale and Wharfedale managers are seeking their views on a multiple merger.

Principal Martin Millgate said: "We had been considering a merger for about a year but these plans were shelved. The inspection report has now brought matters to a head. We have to merge with a college that is successfully managed. There is a high correlation between successful management, high achievement and health."

Mr Millgate said that he hoped a merger would be completed by August next year.

The FEFCE report found that the college's curriculum provision was relatively good. It also praised its links with higher education institutions, prison education, qualified and experienced staff and learning resources centre.

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