Staff from the Bolton College and the University of Bolton were told that the merger of the two institutions presented “a fantastic opportunity” at a special event to commemorate the historic move.
Hundreds of staff attended to hear senior management from both the College and University outline the reasoning behind the “carefully considered” decision.
Bolton College officially merged with the University at one minute past midnight on August 1, 2018.
Professor George Holmes, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, hosted the gathering at the Victoria Hall in Bolton town centre and introduced the speakers. He said the process had been long and hard, but that it had been done for all the right reasons – to provide the best possible future for both institutions and give students the best possible learning experience. Prof Holmes told staff: “It has been a long time for this to happen but now it has, I want to ask you to think about what you can do for the merger. What can you bring?
“The benefit to you is that it provides the opportunity for you to work on a much bigger canvas and we want you to encourage the students to raise their aspirations. Let’s help them to achieve their potential.”
The Earl of St Andrews, Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said via video: “I would like to give my warmest congratulations on the merger of Bolton College and the University of Bolton.
“This is an historic moment in our organisations’ history, bringing the University and the College back together after they went their separate ways in 1982.”
He said that the joining together would provide important synergies for the two thriving educational establishments. “It will enhance opportunities for everybody who works and studies in both. The University will remain a university; the College, a college. Both organisations will continue to focus on teaching excellence. This is an important moment in our shared history.”
Andy Roberts, Chairman of Governors of Bolton College said that the College and University shared a similar ethos of wider participation, were both student focused, quality driven and with a similar vision. “In my mind the benefits for students and staff outweighed any risk. At every stage of our discussions our Board carefully considered the evolving outcomes, along with every aspect of the merger, and at key milestones we formally concluded, by voting unanimously, that the merger was in the best interest of our learners and the College, including our staff.”
Mr Roberts also thanked those from both institutions who had worked so hard – on top of their day jobs – to make the merger happen successfully over a two-and-a-half year period. He said that benefits to the College in general and its learners in particular would be to encourage its students to progress to the University. He added: “To make this a reality we envisaged some alignment of our curriculum to provide feeder courses from the College to some of the University’s platinum programs, exciting new programs such as Dental Sciences, Nursing, Special & Visual Effects or Motor Sport Engineering. Progression would be encouraged by placements at the University’s amazing facilities during FE learning so the next step to HE wouldn’t be daunting because the University would be a familiar place. We expect easy access for students to new markets and opportunities such as degree apprenticeships and enhanced access to educational opportunities, as well as access to the University’s fantastic facilities for other students.”
He added: “More generally we envisaged better development and career opportunities for college staff; a bigger organisation often brings more opportunity. FE is without doubt the poor relation when it comes to funding of the education system. Remember, our fantastic Deane Road campus came with a debt we continue to service. In the face of a highly competitive and more turbulent market in FE it was a concern that banks would make life more difficult. This concern has now disappeared because we are part of a larger and better funded organisation. Retaining the independence of our own Board and the identity as Bolton College was paramount. This signals to students, staff and the outside world that it is business as usual, but with all the benefits of the University mentioned above. We are the first to do this, which is a great accolade. With that comes national recognition but also a large measure of responsibility. There are many eyes looking to our progress. We must ensure the merger is the success we hoped and promised.”
Dr Kondal Reddy Kandadi, Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic) of the University of Bolton, said that recruitment and retention of students, as well as their “employability” after their courses would continue to be a key focus. He said: “There has been millions of pounds worth of investment in the University to provide the best possible learning experience. Businesses want to work with the University and College combined. As institutions we will achieve a lot more together. We will be stronger together.”
Other speakers included Professor His Honour William Morris, Deputy Chairman of the Governors of the University of Bolton. He said that he was “delighted” by the merger. “All of you can be assured of the careful and detailed work to achieve this merger. This partnership with the University should encourage students to come to Bolton College. It makes us a regional player to be reckoned with. These are exciting times for my town. It is a great time for all of us to be part of this newly merged institution.”
Baroness Varsi, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said the merger would offer “long term security and stability” for both organisations and make the group one of the largest educational institutions in the UK.
Sue Duncan, Registrar of the University, outlined the legal structure of the two organisations and stressed that the College and the University remained separate legal entities, despite the merger.
Bill Webster, Acting Principal of Bolton College and Assistant Vice Chancellor of the University, said: “I am in a unique and privileged position. I worked at the University for a number of years with fantastic colleagues and for nearly two years I have been lucky enough to work at the College, again with wonderful people. Of course there are differences. But what is really interesting are the similarities. There is a common thread running through our organisations and that thread is this – a growing and passionate focus on the learner is at the heart of what we do. Our two establishments are typified by our commitment to access, aspiration and achievement and we can look on this with real pride.”
Mr Webster added: “Many of our learners haven’t had a great start, many are fighting against the odds.”
He said that the number of people in Bolton with no qualifications had risen to a figure of 12 per cent of the population. He said: “For these and others, the group can be a beacon of light – the new beginning.”
Staff were invited by Prof Holmes to ask any questions they wished after the presentation.
Sarah Garforth or Steve Murphy at Bolton College
Tel: 01204 482 146 or 01204 482 140
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