Former church college in merger talks with Birmingham University

April 20, 2001

Birmingham University is negotiating to complete a merger with the former Westhill College of Higher Education.

The two institutions had already entered into a strategic alliance and set up a joint venture company to manage the Westhill site, which is on lease to the university and is now known as Birmingham University Westhill.

But college trustees have offered to sell the campus in an effort to release assets over which they have only shared control .

The offer, which follows the collapse of merger talks between Birmingham and Aston universities, is to be considered soon by the university's council, and any proposed deal will then have to be agreed by a strategic alliance board meeting next Thursday.

Purchase of the Westhill site, close to Birmingham's Selly Oak campus, would strengthen significantly the university's efforts to create a large lifelong learning and continuing education base.

But any deal with the trustees of Westhill, a former church college, is likely to involve conditions requiring that religious activities are maintained on the site.

Maxwell Irvine, Birmingham's vice-chancellor, said: "As a charitable trust they have locked a lot of their assets up in the site. With the college management now taken care of, they are looking for ways to release that money to further their charitable aims.

"We are certainly interested in buying the site, and if that does go ahead then that will mean the complete integration of Westhill into the university."

John Walmsley, clerk to the trustees of Westhill, said the talks would have to consider "whether a strategic alliance is the best basis for the future".

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