Easton College merger bid to protect jobs

A college on the outskirts of Norwich has unveiled plans to merge with another in Suffolk - with bosses saying it will help to protect jobs, improve courses and given them the clout needed to bring students from across the country to Norwich.

Governors at both Easton and at Otley College, near Ipswich, have given the green light to progress the proposal for a full merger, which would bring them together as one overarching operation but with the clear message that each college would retain their identity, name and campus.

In a joint statement, the two principals, David Lawrence from Easton and Philip Winfield at Otley, said: 'This proposal is about bringing together two strong colleges to create a specialist college in Norfolk and Suffolk of a scale to become a significant national player.

'We also see it as an essential step to providing increased opportunities for students of all ages and to meeting the skills demands of the industries we serve.

'We have a long process to go through but we hope by next summer we will have completed the work and will move forward as one team.'

The colleges, both of which have a similar sized budget of around �12m, have been forging close links for the last two years, for example sharing staff and expertise.

Mr Lawrence pledged to do all he could to protect jobs, saying: 'We are trying to protect employment in the face of reducing government grants. We have been successful at doing that so far but this stragety will further strengthen our position.'

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The merger has been 'cautiously welcomed' by the University and College Union (UCU).

The work towards a merger is expected to take up to a year to complete and will include a consultation stage with staff, students and other bodies.