Colleges merger spotlight falls back on Telford

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TELFORD College is under increasing pressure to join the merger of two other city institutions as part of a shake-up of further and higher education.

Stevenson and Jewel & Esk colleges announced earlier this year that they plan to amalgamate, but Telford bosses declined to get on board.

However, following Eucation Secretary Michael Russell’s recent announcement that he plans to remove “wasteful duplication” across the college sector by setting up regional groupings of institutions, eyes are again looking towards Telford to see whether it will reconsider its decision.

Brian Lister, the principal of Stevenson College, said the door remained open for Telford to join the merger plans, adding it would offer Edinburgh “the best deal”.

Under the new shake-up outlined by Mr Russell, funding for colleges will be allocated on a regional basis, which will result in closer collaborations and mergers. The Scottish Government’s pre-legislative report – titled Putting Learners at the Centre – states: “The financial pressures we face mean we can no longer afford a system of individual institutions with all the managerial and academic overheads that entails serving overlapping areas.

“Given that for many colleges and regional universities there is a natural regional catchment area they serve, regional planning and funding makes sense for most of the country.”

Mr Lister believes that having a “one-door approach” by combining the three colleges is the best option for the Capital. He said: “As of 2012-13, funding will not go directly to colleges from the Scottish Funding Council. There’s no doubt that having a one-door merged organisation makes all that much simpler. That’s why we’re getting people saying Telford is as well getting in there now.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Funding Council said: “The Scottish Government’s Putting Learners at the Centre talks of regionalisation, and we would anticipate that, not just Telford, but college boards across Scotland would be considering their options whether it be collaboration, merger, or other ways of creating more efficient learning.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “It is for individual colleges and the Scottish Funding Council to discuss any possible mergers.

“The education secretary has made clear, as part of proposals to reform post-16 education, we will be happy to consider mergers where that makes educational and financial sense.”

Telford College declined to comment.

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