The government, in its review of post-16 education and training institutions, stated we need “fewer, often larger, more resilient and efficient providers” to enable specialisation and centres of expertise. Following the introduction of this review programme, numerous colleges have merged and some sixth form colleges have converted to academies. This process continues, often with support from the FE Commissioner's office. Therefore, a number of documents and websites are referenced below to support and guide governing bodies through the merger process.
Association of Colleges
The AOC provide an advice note on their website, together with documentation on college mergers to date.
Department of Education
The Dfe has published documentation on colleges mergers, including:
- The impact of college mergers in Further Education Research report September 2019
- The further education sector reform case studies area-reviews
Department for Business Innovation and Skills
DBIS issued a document on college mergers (current models for collaboration - post 14 further education) and in the accompanying FE Commissioner's letter, he offered his view of the sector landscape as one in which “rationalisation and collaboration is the new order of the day.
Guidance and template documentation
The following documents and templates are available for download below:
SFA Dissolution, merger and establishment of Corporations Guidance
The Further Education Corporation Publication of Proposals (2012)
Merger Plan Checklist
Merger Working Party Terms of Reference
Merger dissolution notice
Structure and Prospects Appraisal Guidance
This guidance is designed to help college corporations understand the FE Commissioner-Led SPA
process and should be read by all members of college governing bodies. This is particularly relevant to colleges that are either going through a SPA, have been advised to undertake a SPA by the FE Commissioner’s team, or are considering restructuring. However, the option is open to all colleges that may benefit from considering whether an FE Commissioner-Led SPA would help them secure long-term sustainability.
There are now many types of partnerships and collaborations that are developing in the further education (FE) sector, and the Skills for Jobs White Paper strongly suggests that this direction of travel will continue.
Both the AOC and ETF (module H3 of the Governor Development Programme) provide training and guidance on partnership working, with the aim of:
- demonstrating, with practical examples, the different ways a college can partner or collaborate with others;
- show the benefits and risks of such partnerships and collaboration;
- develop your thinking and understanding regarding your own college’s partnership and collaboration activity;
- demonstrate how a college’s partnership and collaboration with other providers contributes towards economic prosperity, social inclusion and equality of opportunity;
- showing the questions about potential risks that should be considered when discussing new strategic partnerships/collaboration.
Funding of such collaborations maybe available from government through means such as the College Collaboration Fund (April 2021).
Below is a thought leadership article has been prepared by the education and charities specialist law firm, Stone King LLP, in collaboration with the Association of Colleges and is supplemented with a checklist designed to facilitate structured ways of thinking about collaboration. It has been prepared to help colleges, their governing bodies and leaders explore and implement successful collaboration. It is equally relevant to collaboration amongst colleges and between colleges and other stakeholders sharing common interests
in the advancement of society.
Capital Build Projects
When capital funding is available from government, many colleges can undertake new builds and refurbishment projects of the estate. Building Knowledge is a resource set up to support such activity. It is a Best Practice Resource for FE Colleges and Property Professionals:
'For twenty years our group has been promoting excellence in Further Education construction projects by sharing knowledge amongst those involved. Originally established by the RIBA to help architects and colleges work together, the group has evolved to include a range of professions, encouraging best thinking in the creation and management of the FE environment. As such the group includes college senior managers, the property professions, the Association of Colleges and the Skills Funding Agency, collectively acting as a knowledge community promoting thought leadership in the improvement of the national FE estate, best practice in the design and execution of FE projects, and the dissemination and sharing of knowledge between colleges and professionals'.
Resourcing governance during merger
Payment of governors
The Charity Commission has a separate process for handling applications for governors payments in the following circumstances:
* where a college is going through significant change, such as a merger, and the additional and time-limite workload cannot be met by relying solely on voluntary effort.