Merger FAQs

What is happening?

Alton Sixth Form College and Havant & South Downs College (HSDC) are planning to merge on 1 March 2019 to establish a single leading merged College group with campuses in Havant, Waterlooville and Alton. We see this as an exciting future, offering opportunities to extend and develop the choice and excellence for which both Colleges have built an outstanding reputation.

Answers to the frequently asked questions about the merger can be found below. If you are an employee or student there is additional FAQ information available.

Yes. It is fully recognised that Alton College provides strong local provision in the local area and the intention is that the new merged College group will continue to operate from the existing campuses at Havant, Waterlooville and Alton for the foreseeable future. An important principle of this change is that no course will be closed part-way through delivery and no students will be expected to travel between Alton and Havant. In fact, the aim is to increase provision over time.

Although the current Alton Governing Body will be dissolved, the intention is that the two existing Colleges will come together as part of a single entity, as strong and equal partners to enhance the student experience and provision. It is a genuine partnership built on a shared vision and equal standing.

We aim to develop and enhance the student experience. The merger has the potential to provide significant benefits to students and the wider community. The benefits are becoming the region’s largest provider of professional and technical courses and expanding Apprenticeship programmes and ease of access to future employees.

An important principle of any change is that no course will be closed part-way through delivery.  We will continue to offer the high quality experience that students and the wider community have come to expect at both Colleges, and also have a shared vision to create an outstanding College group.

There is no doubt that financial sustainability is a key focus for all colleges, but this not the only reason for merger.  Income for the whole further education sector is forecast to decrease further still in the coming years. Maintaining the status quo and long-term financial resilience is expected to be very challenging. We are seeking a merger which enables us to deliver the vision to offer outstanding choice and provision and ensure efficiency, effectiveness and allow future investment to meet the needs of our learners.  We also want to be of sufficient size to be a strong voice in the local community. This merger will create an entity of circa £35M. The financial risks for the early years of partnership are well understood, but there are also opportunities for aligning systems to create greater efficiencies in business processes.

There has been regular and ongoing communication with staff. We welcome feedback from staff that are employed at either College as part of our consultation process. A full detailed merger plan has been developed and staff affected by it will be fully consulted.  All staff will be subject to the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) regulations.

Yes.  The current Principal at Havant & South Downs College, Mike Gaston, will become Principal of the merged College group. The former Principal at Alton College left to take up another post in August 2018 so, in anticipation of the merger, Mike Gaston has also been appointed as Interim Principal at Alton College until the date of merger. This is evidence of the strong working relationships between the Colleges.

No. Students will not be asked to travel between sites.

The Area Based Review (ABR) process was a national review of post 16 education started in 2015. As part of the M3 LEP ABR process, it was agreed that Alton College could not continue as a stand-alone institution but should seek, if possible, to merge with Basingstoke College of Technology. This did not prove to be a suitable way forward and the College then worked with the FE Commissioner to conduct a Structure and Prospects Appraisal of all of the options available to the College, resulting in seeking a viable partnership with another organisation.  HSDC made a formal bid to become a partner and was chosen from a shortlist of three providers as the preferred option in May 2018.

Both Colleges recognise that by engaging staff, students, employers, other providers and the wider community, we will achieve a better informed, more well-developed outcome.  A general consultation has been carried out and there is a requirement to hold consultation on the dissolution of the Alton College Board. We welcome feedback on all of our proposals as stakeholder engagement is central to the overall success of any eventual merger, particularly as one of the key goals is to ensure that the profile of our provision meets the current needs and future priorities of students, employers and communities.

An important principle of any change is that no courses will be closed part-way through delivery.  Any offer made to a student applying to either College for 2019 will be guaranteed. Furthermore, our shared vision is to create an outstanding College offer with increased and varied opportunities. A combined approach also gives scope to develop more leading-edge specialist subjects for the benefit of school leavers and adult learners for the future.

Our vision is that by combining the resources of both Colleges, together we will be able to offer the most extensive choice of A Level subjects in the region while building on Alton’s Sixth Form College’s reputation as a leading provider of A Levels.

HSDC and Alton College have complementary strengths and weaknesses and working in partnership will ensure that there is an extensive and varied curriculum offer to meet local needs.  We believe that the merger will enable us to secure the following advantages for the merged College group:

  • Ongoing development of our current A Level provision, Vocational delivery, HE and international opportunities, to meet local priorities.
  • Ensuring the continued emphasis on provision for students with special educational needs and disability (SEND) as part of our vision for an inclusive College group.
  • Sharpening growth and securing new opportunities.
  • Securing outstanding high quality provision.
  • Securing a robust financial position.
  • Developing first class facilities
  • Partnering with Business to support the Skills Agenda

Both Colleges will legally form part of the HSDC Group. However, both already have a strong reputation so it is intended that they will be known by their existing names.

Both colleges have a strong record of success and are seeking to ensure that they can be financially stable in the long-term.  We believe a potential merger would provide a more robust financial position and we have made an application for Government funding to support the merger and ensure that the newly merged College group is well established financially.  If we are successful in that application, our vision is to create an outstanding provision for further education in the communities served by the Colleges which is the key driver to our merger.

Both colleges would need to demonstrate long term financial resilience which is no easy task in light of further reduced funding. We believe that a merger will provide a more robust financial position whilst enabling greater benefits for students and the community with an extensive and varied curriculum, continuation of outstanding provision and development of first class facilities.

A detailed merger plan can been developed and the one-off costs have been identified. Whatever the costs of the merger, the longer-term benefit and more robust financial position will far outweigh these costs. In the short term, by working together closely and sharing services where possible, we have also been able to release funds to support the direct costs of merger.

We do not yet know what the exact class sizes will be but will always take into account the student learning experience and value for money when making decisions about class size.  We will remain committed to maintaining our reputations for delivering quality and utilising our shared resources, including our world-class teachers.

The current date for merger is 1 March 2019 which is the point at which there will be a single Governing Body and all staff will be members of one merged College group.  In the preparation for merger, the Colleges, including the Governing Bodies, are working very closely together and sharing leadership and other resources so that there will be a seamless transfer.

You don’t need to do anything.  You will gradually see a harmonisation of activity and we will make sure that your work with the College(s) is as easy as possible for you.

We believe that the two Colleges working together will enable a far greater focus on the development of Apprenticeships and on developing a curriculum offer which is more responsive to your needs.  Our ambition to become the provider of choice for professional and technical education.

No – absolutely not – we will honour all programmes already begun on either site.

Need some help? Our advisors are here to help you

Contact us