College merger approved

A CONTROVERSIAL college merger has been approved by governing bodies.

Northumberland College and Newcastle College Group (NCG) have agreed to the merger in principle, subject to approval from the Skills Funding Agency and Ministers.

The proposal has attracted criticism from MPs, staff and unions over fears of potential pay cuts, job losses and the future of campuses.

But the colleges say it will improve the student experience.

Chairman of the Board of Governors at Northumberland College Linda Ions said: “These are exciting times for Northumberland College.

“The merger will improve the success and experience of students and employers in Northumberland.

“NCG is widely recognised as the best in the further education sector and we are very excited at the prospect of gaining access to its outstanding support and expertise.

“The Board of Governors is convinced that this opportunity is in the best interested of all of our stakeholders and represents a tremendous opportunity for our students and staff.”

The Skills Funding Agency received 364 responses during consultation on the proposal earlier this year, its highest return for such an exercise, and 63 per cent of respondents did not support the merger.

Northumberland College includes campuses at Kirkley Hall near Ponteland and Ashington.