South London colleges consult on plan to merge

Lewisham College pic: Jisc Infonet

A consultation process on the potential merger of Southwark College and Lewisham College opened last week and will stay open until 21 February.

The Chief Executive of Skills Funding has called for comments from key partners, students, staff, local business and the local community.

The two southeast London based colleges plan to merge institutions, in the belief that combining the resources and strengths of both colleges will ensure growth. But creation of a new college, likely to be called ‘Lewisham and Southwark College’, still depends on government approval.

After Southwark College’s poor inspection result in 2008, it was decided that with a falling number of students and the economy worsening, the college needed an immediate expansion.

Lewisham College, in the neighbouring borough, is in sound financial condition, whilst Southwark College enjoys excellent contacts with major employers. Based on these factors, the colleges plan to work together and make best use of each other’s potential.

With the creation of the new college, the institutions aim at educating over 4,000 young people aged 14-19 and over 15,000 adults.

A statement on Lewisham College’s web site said: “Southwark College has faced a difficult time and its achievements fall some way short of its potential. It has, however, developed some excellent links with major employers in the local area and with the right resources this potential could be realised.

“We believe that by combining the resources and strengths of both colleges we can plan for growth. To do this we will work closely with employers, local authorities and schools to ensure that our offer makes a direct contribution to improving job prospects and increasing prosperity for the local community.”

When asked about the plan, 18-year-old Rebecca Hatchins, a catering student at Lewisham college said: “I support this plan because my course will benefit from it.  Jointly, two colleges are more likely to provide good cooking facilities for teaching.”

A college staff member who wishes to remain anonymous said: “Most of us don’t really care about this merger because it is not going to affect our jobs in a significant way.”

Miriam Lopes, a carer and a Health and Social Care student at the college, was not aware of the merger plan, but after being informed of the proposals told EastLondonLines that the merger would be beneficial because the colleges would jointly bring in better opportunities and facilities for students, as well as a greater number of courses.

The two colleges together occupy five major sites with excellent facilities. A detailed estates strategy will be developed for the college buildings.

If the two colleges successfully sail through the legal process, the merger plan will be presented by 1 June 2012.

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