A major deal to create a regional ‘super college’ for the North East is expected to be approved next week.
The deal between Sunderland College and Northumberland is waiting on the green light from regulators after first being announced by education bosses last year (2018).
And if given the nod, it will create one of the biggest educational institutions in the region, with a catchment area stretching from the River Tees up to the Scottish Borders.
According to Ellen Thinnesen, Sunderland College’s principal, the move has been prompted by cash challenges facing English colleges.
She said: “Colleges across the sector have faced significant funding reductions, which have been quite difficult and colleges across the country have been forced into mergers.
“That sometimes requires us to think differently.”
She added: “We’re working on a merger with Northumberland College that will take our student base to just under 21,000 and our apprentice contract to about £4.1m.”
The principal was speaking at this week’s meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee.
The merger between Sunderland College and Northumberland College follows a previous deal which saw Hartlepool Sixth Form College join Sunderland’s set up in 2017.
Although the plan is for all assets which currently belong to Northumberland College to be transferred to Sunderland College, both schools are still expected to maintain their own governing bodies.
It is also hoped the scheme will the combined college given a financial health rating of ‘Good’ in 2019/20, rising to ‘Outstanding’ by 2021/22.
However, the principal also conceded there would be challenges in running a ‘large multi-campus college’.
She added: “From a pastoral and welfare point of view, we have to have a senior person responsible for welfare and safety.
“Then, as you drill down to each campus there’s managers that take a lead on the welfare and safeguarding, down to youth workers.”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service