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Colleges complete ‘important strategic merger’

CENTRAL Bedfordshire College is to become part of The Bedford College Group.

The college, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, serves communities across southern Central Bedfordshire and Luton, with campuses in Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard and Luton. The merger is due to take effect from February next year.

The merger will result in an expanded educational offer to meet the skills needs of Bedfordshire’s employers. Meanwhile it will be ‘business as usual’ for students and staff, the college says.

The merger is in line with the government’s policy of encouraging more regional colleges. The Bedford College Group, formed in 2017 by the merger of Bedford College, including Shuttleworth College near Biggleswade, with Tresham College in Northamptonshire. Tresham College has maintained its own identity but benefited from being part of the group which went on to be awarded The Best FE College in Britain status by the Times Educational Supplement.

The merger announcement comes after an Ofsted inspection report in January this year on Central Bedfordshire College, which concluded that its overall effectiveness “requires improvement” – similar to its previous Ofsted inspection in 2018. The inspectors gave a similar assessment to the quality of education, leadership and management and educational programmes for youg people.

Other aspects were rated “good” although its apprenticeships rating was “inadequate”.

Professor James Crabbe, chair of Central Bedfordshire College’s Corporation – its full governing body – said: “The merger will allow our vision of skills and vocational education for our region, which we as a college have developed over many years, to become an actuality with enormous benefits for our learners, our staff, local employers and the community of Bedfordshire as a whole.”

The combined college could become a model for mergers in the FE sector, he added.

College chief executive Dr Ali Hadawi pictured right added: “This merger will enable us to offer additional courses in a wider range of subjects to a larger number of learners, young and old. We will also be able to meet the needs of a broader range of businesses across a wide range of industries locally, hence enhancing their competitiveness and success. 

“This important strategic merger will help ensure that the technical and vocational education and training in the local area are best placed to meet the challenges of our economy in the future.”

Students at The Bedford College Group campuses have had access to improved facilities, resources and teaching since the group was formed five years ago. TBCG chief executive Ian Pryce below said: “We are really looking forward to working with Ali Hadawi and his team.  We already have a great relationship with the college but this will allow us to deepen and build that relationship to create something very special for our community, employers, staff and students.”

Allan Schofield, chair of The Corporation at TBCG, said: “The Bedford College Group is delighted to have been selected as the merger partner for Central Bedfordshire College.  It brings together the two largest post-16 educators in the local authority area and creates a financially strong institution which will allow us to expand the educational opportunities to everyone in Central Bedfordshire and Luton.”

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