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Merger key facts


  • Since 2009 there has been a determined effort by the Government to reduce public spending in further education.
  • As further education colleges across England have been faced with significant cuts to their budgets, it has resulted in unsatisfactory financial health and an inability to remain as stand-alone providers for some colleges.
  • Whilst the country’s education system has significant strengths, current and future change will continue to challenge colleges into the foreseeable future with the sole purpose of creating efficient, world class providers of education and training.
  • External pressures and instability have resulted in Government intervention and/or no other option but to merge in order to retain local provision and remain viable. For others, the freedom and choice to merge has been embraced as an opportunity to strengthen and reposition.
  • The education system across the country has experienced an unprecedented period of whole system reform, encompassing the case for structural change along with rigorous attention to standards. Reform is set to continue beyond 2020.

The merged College Group

  • The merger between Northumberland College and Sunderland College will ensure strong and sustainable colleges into the future.
  • The merger took place on 22nd March 2019, following extensive consultation.
  • The merger will deliver a dynamic, high performing regional college. It will be responsive to the needs of students and integrated into the educational and economic needs of the communities each college serves.
  • The combined strength and capacity created through both colleges coming together will considerably enhance the prospects of each beyond their ability to do so alone.
  • All students and stakeholders across the Group, can expect a college that delivers high levels of academic achievement, personalised support and on-going development opportunities to help them achieve their full potential.
  • Shared values of standards, professionalism, integrity and partnership are at the heart of the merged college.
  • Northumberland College will be enhanced and supported through additional investment with students and stakeholders reaping the benefits of a financially strong college.
  • The merger will support the sustainability of high quality further and higher education within Northumberland, and strengthen accessible provision for communities and employers across the county, particularly in areas around Berwick, Ashington, Hexham and Kirkley (Ponteland).
  • The modelling of the merged college will mean financial health is ‘Good’ in 2019/20 and ‘Outstanding’ by 2021/22.
  • Northumberland College and Sunderland College will each have their own governing body.
  • It is envisaged that the merger will not have a detrimental effect on any neighbouring schools or colleges.
  • The focus is the provision of a full and coherent, high quality education and training offer.
  • Students will have more choice and opportunities for progression with career routes into degree level study, apprenticeships and/or employment.
  • Academic performance of students will be strengthened through further investment in quality, including shared learning and knowledge exchange.
  • There will be improvements in the student experience and enrichment opportunities.
  • Outstanding provision for special educational needs will continue to be prioritised, alongside accessible and effective provision for English, Maths, IT and employability skills.
  • As the only Further Education College in the county, it will protect the sustainability of the provision in Northumberland.
  • The merged college’s education and training offer will align, where appropriate, to the economic growth strategy, LEP, Borderlands Initiative and Local and Combined Authority priorities.
  • Employers will help the merged college to shape provision and ensure that skills priorities are met both in the respective local areas.
  • Best practice taken from both colleges will ensure high quality and impactful employer partnerships into the future.