Telford talks to delay super college launch

Miles Dibsdall

Miles Dibsdall

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THE decision by Telford College to join merger talks with Stevenson and Jewel & Esk will delay the creation of the city’s new “super college” by two months.

Stevenson and Jewel & Esk colleges have been working together on their merger plans since announcing their intentions earlier this year and hoped to be able to open the merged institution by August next year.

But Telford this week made a U-turn on its previous stance against joining the other two city colleges to create one big Edinburgh college.

A staff consultation will get under way before Christmas but the opening of the new college – which will be one of the biggest in the UK, with around 40,000 students and 1200 staff – will be delayed until next October as a result.

Telford College principal Miles Dibsdall, who has previously been outspoken on his views against merging with Stevenson and Jewel & Esk, told staff he was committed to ensuring the merger will not lead to compulsory redundancies or a change in terms and conditions for the next two years.

Unions welcomed that commitment, but warned that the merger was driven by money and not educational benefits.

A statement from the executive committee of Telford’s EIS branch said: “We retain grave reservations about the merger and its educational merits.

“We believe it is driven not by educational imperatives, but by financial expediency.

“Unions at all three colleges will not allow staff or students to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.”

Telford College has now entered formal discussions with Stevenson and Jewel & Esk.

Jim Donaldson, Telford’s board chairman, said it was hoped all the colleges would agree to a commitment of no compulsory redundancies, but said jobs could go through voluntary severance programmes.

He said: “It’s not to say that as a result of the merger, we will not lose staff because we might lose staff under voluntary severance arrangements.”

Mr Donaldson added: “The original two-college merger was planned officially for August 1, whereas now there will be a slight delay but we would hope we could complete everything by October 1.

“I would like to get the staff consultation set up between now and Christmas so we can get off to a flier in early new year.”