SWINDON College eased concerns that a sharp drop in its Ofsted rating could cause issues with a bid for funding to build a multi-million pound Institute of Technology on-campus.

The Advertiser understands that a Good Ofsted rating was part of the criteria to apply for the £21m scheme which would convert Swindon College’s tower block and technology buildings to help tackle a skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

A Swindon College-led consortium with New College and the University of Gloucestershire is one of 16 projects shortlisted by the government to bid for the cash.

The college had an Outstanding rating when it first applied but shortly after the first images of the project were released, inspectors downgraded the college to Requires Improvement.

A spokesman for Swindon College said: "All of the IOT partners met the record of achievement criteria at the date of submission for the second stage application of November 21 2018.

"The IOT guidance clearly states that any change in any partners record of achievement after this date will not be taken into account at the shortlisting stage and therefore does not put the bid in jeopardy.

"It states that 'If there is a material change to the record of achievement after this date but before the Stage Two assessment is concluded, this will not be taken into account in the paper-based assessment of bids.'

"The main focus of the planned IOT activity will be higher education, in which our provision was externally-assessed as meets expectations in all categories, and adult education, which was rated as Good at the December Ofsted inspection.

"In addition, our apprenticeships were rated Good during the Ofsted inspection. We have a record of achievement to be proud of. If anything, the confirmation of good grades for adult education and apprenticeships improves our chances of success, as they are confirmation of key strengths in areas deemed most relevant to the IOT."

Based on North Star Avenue, the proposals are backed by some of Swindon’s biggest employers, including Nationwide, BMW Group, Excalibur Communications and Recycling Technologies. Between them, the firms will contribute £1m to the project.

If successful, the new institute of technology, which would be backed by Oxford Brookes University and Cirencester College, would offer high-level technical qualifications in advanced manufacturing and engineering, life sciences, digital sciences and creative media. The Department for Education did not wish to comment on the bid's status. The colleges expect to hear by March whether or not they have been awarded the funding.