Financially-stricken K College campuses could be broken up
K College has sites
across Kent, including Tonbridge
exclusive by political editor Paul
The financially-troubled K College could be broken up after
the government unveiled a far-reaching shake-up that is likely
to see other organisations taking over its existing campuses.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock has written to the Folkestone
and Hythe MP Damian Collins to say there will be an open
competition for other groups to take over the sites.
K College, which has 15,000 students, is not
among those bidding to run the separate campuses - but it
is thought highly likely other education groups will be
It would signal the end of K College in its current form after
just three years and could see the individual campuses in Ashford,
Folkestone, Tonbridge, Dover and Tunbridge Wells operating
But it comes as the college's interim principal Phil Frier today
admitted the merger of South and West Kent College hadn't
The move means the possible closure of sites in Folkestone
and Dover is no longer on the agenda.
Skills minister Matthew
Hancock. Picture: Andrew Parson
In a letter to Mr Collins, Mr Hancock said: "Following
our meeting in February in relation to K College, I am writing to
let you know that, as expected, the college has submitted a
proposal that its current delivery should be tendered in a number
of geographically-based lots, through an open and competitive
process, including Folkestone."
He goes on to say K College will not be running the
"The Skills Funding Agency and Education Funding Agency have
recommended this proposal is accepted with the condition they will
manage the competition to ensure transparency and to allow the
existing management of K College to concentrate on maintaining
continuity of learning while this process is under way."
The college is in serious financial difficulties and announced
last year that it had a deficit of £16million.
Around 170 jobs are being lost as part of a drive to curb the
deficit and the crisis triggered the resignation of former
principal Bill Fearon.
welcomed the news. He said: "This is an important step forward and
means that the government and Skills Funding Agency have listened
to the key points that we have made throughout this process.
"These are that there needs to be further education provision in
Folkestone and it cannot be merged into another college in a
different town. Also, that the needs of the current students must
continue to be met."
The government will continue to fund the existing K College
until any new provider takes it over so students can continue with
The college was subject to a three-month review at the end of
last year when the government sent in a hit squad to assess what
the future could be.
Interim Principal of K College, Phil Frier, said: "The merger of
South and West Kent College has not worked.
"I believe further education colleges should be responsive to
the needs of local employers and learners, and the Corporation
believes the proposal going forward to the minister is the best way
"Preparations are under way for an open and competitive process
to secure new college structures by September 2014."
He added that he intended any transition for staff and students
to be "seamless" and recruitment to courses starting in September
would continue as normal.
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