NEW College and Swindon College hope to join forces before the end of the academic year in preparation for the town's new £21 million Institute of Technology.

Governors of both colleges believe the move would bring a wide range of features and benefits for students and employers, including a “well-planned and more cohesive high quality curriculum”.

Chair of New College’s governing body Charlotte Mannion said: “This merger is an opportunity for our two colleges to come together to better meet the region’s education, skills and training needs.

“Together we will be a major force shaping future learning opportunities and helping to drive the economic prosperity of the Swindon and Wiltshire area.”

Students starting or continuing on courses at the colleges in September 2020 would continue to study in their current locations but will have the opportunity to access a wider range of resources and facilities..

Swindon College student Freddie Trotman said: “I think it’s a good idea, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone already studying here, I’m all for it.”

A statement announcing the merger claimed it would “enable a fresh vision for Swindon, one that will raise aspirations and standards, improve the learner experience and achievement rates and expand skills training opportunities for our employers with the aim of meeting current and future local needs”.

The Department of Education confirmed its approval for the planned Institute of Technology in Swindon to be realigned with the merger project. In April, the IOT Consortium, comprising both colleges, local universities, employers and wider stakeholders, won its bid for a £21 million capital project designed to bring 1,000 new higher education places to the area by 2026.

Chair of governors at Swindon College Rob Beale said: “The coming together of our two institutions is absolutely right for Swindon, local people and employers.

“The joint strength and expertise of the two colleges, along with the opportunities that the IoT will afford, means greater choice, enhanced skills development and improved progression opportunities for everyone – right through to the higher education level.”

The colleges will be issuing a public consultation document in the new year to gather the views and opinions of learners, staff, employers, stakeholders and the wider community.

The merger has been discussed on and off for years. In 2016, the Adver reported on negotiations between the two colleges coming to an end.

Then in 2018, incoming New College principal Carole Kitching said she had an open mind about a potential merger.
Now, the colleges are beginning preliminary work and undertaking due diligence with a view to merging by the end of the academic year, July 2020.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for education Russell Holland said: “The proposed merger of the two colleges will support our ambition to raise attainment and aspirations for young people in Swindon.

“It will provide a strong post-16 academic and technical offer that meets the needs of our residents, including vulnerable young people.

“This will also help the council’s pledge to increase higher education opportunities through the Institute of Technology and the Learning Town initiative.

“Plus, it builds on the work we are doing with businesses in the town to provide them with the highly-skilled employees that they need for their continued growth.”

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson was pleased to hear of the preliminary plans.
He said: “This will drive up standards and improve outcomes for learners, employers and the wider community, by expanding skills training and raising standards.

“In the coming years, I feel the merger will give them the maximum flexibility and resources to continue to adapt to the changing demands and opportunities to support students of all ages in our town, whether young adults taking their first steps, or those of working-age seeking to re-skill, or up-skill alongside the growing economy.”