A MERGER between Swindon’s two biggest colleges is being lined up to reduce costs and preserve the future of the organisations in the face of funding cuts.

Governors and principals at Swindon College and New College are due to get around the negotiating table in the coming weeks to establish the feasibility of the plan.

The fact-finding exercise has been prompted by the imposing threat of crippling cuts in public funding as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month.

There will also be an area review of post-16 education provision across Swindon and Wiltshire between now and March 2017, which senior figures expect will recommend changes in a town where two further education colleges exist side-by-side.

Rob Beale, chair of governors at Swindon College, said: “We have discussed, as a governing body, if this is the kind of thing we want and how likely this will be as a suggestion from the review panel.

“We have got to make the right decisions for our staff and students.

“If this is going to be happening in the next 12 months anyway, we should be talking to New College and asking the question: is this in the best interests of our students?

“If it is, why wait for an area review? Let’s get moving on this and see if it has legs.”

Any formal merger is some way off at this stage and only preliminary meetings are currently proposed.

The hope is, under any merger, the new organisation would be financially stronger and more resilient to any future changes in the financial landscape.

Back office savings would almost certainly be made and jobs cut in an effort to bring costs down and improve efficiency for students.

The talks have already been flagged up for staff at both colleges and there have been murmurings of concern for job security, which Mr Beale said was only natural with any uncertainty over the future.

“There’s always going to be concerns when people are coming together if, for no other reason than you only need one principal,” he said.

“We want to get this right for our staff, students and external stakeholders.”

Andrew Miller, the current Swindon College principal, announced he would take early retirement in March 2016, this summer, but those plans are now on hold, as is the search for his successor.

After 30 years in education and six at the head of the college, Mr Miller said a merger would be a positive move in a thriving Swindon.

“The starting point must always be what is best for the future students, employees and stakeholders in Swindon,” he said.

“I suggest in the next five years, some quite exciting things will be happening in Swindon.

“There will be a growth in employment, new housing development and it will need to be looked at whether there’s a need for one joint college in Swindon.

“I can see a situation where there’s one college in Swindon that really does provide a significant range of provision, great opportunities.

“We have to work on cutting back on back office costs, sharing services and working more strategically to make savings.”

Graham Taylor, principal at New College, said: “I don’t think anybody is saying the money is going up.

“There have been 50 per cent cuts to adult education for the last eight years and there’s going to be another 30 per cent in the next three years.

“It’s fair to say about a quarter of colleges are in financial difficulties at the moment and that’s before the 2014/15 accounts are published.”