Mergers and waste

July 10, 1998

I was surprised to read in your leader on mergers that the Further Education Funding Council's decision to reject the proposed Hertfordshire University-Dunstable College merger might have been on "seemingly arbitrary grounds".

This is surely a perverse view. There was strong and widespread opposition to the proposal in the county of Bedfordshire. This was based partly on the reality that, if agreed, the merger would lead to wasteful competition with the other well-established institutions of further and higher education in the Luton-Dunstable conurbation.

But more important it would have set back appreciably a county-wide model for the coordinated development of further/ higher education that has been developed over several years. The FEFC accepted these objections, particularly as the re-appearance of growth in both the FE and HE sectors will at last allow the latter model to be developed to fruition.

In the light of these considerations, the rejection of this merger proposal could hardly be described as arbitrary.

In the longer term, it is clear that without explicit criteria against which HE-FE merger initiatives can be judged, there are bound to be more outcomes of this sort. These, too, will involve unnecessary commitment of time and resources.

D T John

Vice-chancellor designate, University of Luton

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