Two Kent colleges have been saved from an 18-month spell in educational administration along with the Greenwich Equestrian Centre.
North Kent College (NKC), based in Dartford, has taken over the management of both Hadlow College, along with its Greenwich Equestrian Centre, and the Tonbridge Campus of West Kent and Ashford College.
The transfer, the largest ever further education transaction in the country, includes all students and education-related facilities to NKC, which has campuses in Dartford and Gravesend.
This comes after the two colleges became the first ever in the UK to be placed into educational administration in May and August 2019
“A financial crisis” at led to the Further Education Commissioner intervening at Hadlow and West Kent Colleges, stating: “The college faces significant challenges and is in a perilous position.”
Ministers wrote that it was clear from the commissioner’s report that previous leaders at the college “have led to a financial crisis” which puts the college’s long-term future at risk and has the potential to adversely impact the education of learners.
Placing the college into supervised college status, the Government said “it is the Commissioner’s assessment that governance at the college has failed in overseeing the financial management of the college.”
Since then, the colleges have been run by an interim principal, Graham Morley, while administrators BDO oversaw the transaction, which has now finally gone through.
This transfer “concludes the Administrators’ implementation of the FE Commissioner’s recommendations,” and saves them from administration.
Morley said he was proud they had “preserved both colleges’ long-standing heritage, ensured that specialist land-based education remains within the Garden of England and positively concluded a process that started in February 2019.”
Commenting on the transfer, David Gleed, Chief Executive and Executive Principal of North Kent College, said he was “delighted” to welcome the staff and students from Hadlow and West Kent Colleges to NKC.
“As we move into this exciting new chapter it brings with it a wealth of opportunities. We’ve secured course provision for all current and new learners and this is the outcome we have worked exceptionally hard to achieve.
“The union will strengthen the breadth of our curriculum offer and our training provision across Kent and equip students with the skills and knowledge to prepare them for successful careers and further studies.”
Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, who has been involved in the transfer process, said the move was not just important locally “but is of national significance.”
It is a new beginning for the colleges which can thrive under new leadership.”