Colleges join forces in new partnership

Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus.
Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus.

Northumberland College and Sunderland College have confirmed plans to merge in a move that it is hoped will bring significant benefits to the region.

The merger, by March next year, will create a large Regional College Group with campuses across Northumberland, Sunderland, Washington, and Hartlepool.

Jacqui Henderson, chairman of governors at Northumberland College, said: “In seeking to extend and further develop the further and higher education opportunities across the region, we are delighted by the creation of this new strategic partnership.

“This new model creates a brilliant opportunity for the two colleges to each bring their own significant strengths and expertise to the delivery of the diverse skills required across the North East region.”

The chairman of governors at Sunderland College, Rob Lawson, said: “This merger is an exciting opportunity to increase capability and capacity so that both colleges can excel in meeting the region’s educational and economic needs.

“Both organisations clearly strive for excellence and place the student at the heart of everything they do.

“I am confident that our cultures will align very easily as we prepare for merger.” 

Northumberland College is the only further education college in the county.

It has campuses in Ashington, Kirkley Hall, Berwick, Newcastle, Hexham and Blyth.

Ian Clinton, principal and chief executive at Northumberland College, said: “We are delighted to be merging our strengths and expertise with those of Sunderland College.

“Together we will be a major force in the North East, to shape education and skills to meet the region’s current and emerging social and economic needs.”

Sunderland College, one of the largest providers of post-16 education in the North East, has three campuses across the city of Sunderland and a sixth form college in Hartlepool.

Principal and chief executive Ellen Thinnesen said: “We feel very privileged to be chosen as a merger partner for Northumberland College.

“Building on the success and values of both colleges, our merger will maximise opportunities for students, apprentices and employers across the region.

“Together we will pursue our vision to put ‘excellence into the heart of everything we do’.”

Both colleges have been operating as usual since the merger announcement.

Northumberland College achieved a grade two Ofsted result in June 2017.

Over recent years, it has invested more than £14million in new facilities at its sites, including a £2.5million STEM Centre at its Ashington campus.

The college offers hundreds of vocational courses and a wide range of apprenticeship programmes to individuals and employers throughout the North East.

Sunderland College, with approximately 14,300 students, is the highest ranking college in the region for satisfaction and progression, and is in the top 15 nationally. It was awarded the prestigious Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Engagement with Employers in 2017. It has achieved the Matrix standard, a national quality standard for information advice and guidance services.