The world of further education in Wales and beyond.

A new name for a new college

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Friday, 5 February, 2010

From August 2010 there will be a new college for South West Wales – Gower College Swansea. 

The new college will be formed as a result of a merger between Swansea College and Gorseinon College and will have a name instantly recognisable, not only within Wales, but nationally and internationally. 

The new name is significant as the term ‘Gower’ can be traced back to Norman times when, as a region, it embraced an area three times the size of what we currently call the ‘Gower Peninsula’ and included the districts which both Gorseinon and Swansea Colleges currently serve. 

“We are delighted that the name which has been chosen for the new college heralds an exciting future for learners in Swansea, whilst acknowledging the history of the region in which we are based,” say College Principals Jeff Gunningham and Nick Bennett. 

For the past 18 months, the Colleges have worked closely together to respond to the Welsh Assembly Government’s agenda to transform education and training provision in Wales by entering into merger discussions. Bringing together two complementary, successful organisations will create an institution which provides outstanding learning opportunities and experiences for young people, adults and employers in the Swansea area. 

Throughout the merger discussions it has been emphasised to both current and prospective students that, although the college will have a new name, it is very much ‘business as usual.’ 

The announcement today of the new name is the first step in what will be an exciting process of re-branding for two highly successful organisations. 

“Both colleges are looking forward to further collaboration which will ensure that all students benefit from our collective strength,” add Jeff Gunningham and Nick Bennett.


Posted in Colleges, Gorseinon College, Gower College Swansea, Mergers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Sixth form plans in parts of Wales face opposition

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Tuesday, 26 January, 2010

The Welsh Assembly’s proposals for further education colleges and local authorities to find more creative and efficient ways of delivering post-16 provision are being met with strong opposition in some parts of Wales.

The BBC’s Radio Wales programme “Eye on Wales” has revealed that in some areas such as Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Rhondda Cynon Taff, and Merthyr radical proposals are being opposed by sixth forms that are threatened by the changes.

The programme focuses on Blaenau Gwent’s proposals to build a large post-16 centre in Ebbw Vale and close the county’s four sixth forms.

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales at 1830 GMT on Monday 25 January. You can listen on 93-104 FM, 657 & 882 MW or on digital satellite: Sky – 0117 or Freesat – 714, Freeview on 719 or cable 931.

For the full report see BBC Website: Sixth form plans in parts of Wales face opposition 
You can also listen to the latest programme here.

Posted in Colleges, Funding, Sixth Forms, Skills that work for Wales | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Plan to cut “red-tape” in FE

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Wednesday, 20 January, 2010

Further education colleges in Wales are to be part of an independent review examining bureaucracy in the education sector. 

The review, set up by the Welsh Assembly government, aims to “re-focus” resources so that they reach the front line.  The review will include schools, colleges and universities.

Education minister, Leighton Andrews stated:
“It is imperative that we reduce the bureaucracy and streamline the education system to make it lean and effective to benefit our learners.”

The review will begin in February, with the first stage an internal exercise looking at the costs of administering education in Wales using information collected by the assembly government.

Recommendations for making savings and opportunities to move resources to front line services will be made by the end of March.

A wider review of administering education across Wales will then follow.

See BBC website: Education funding overhaul plan

Posted in Funding, Management | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

D-day looming for plan to create single college

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Friday, 15 January, 2010

By Jason Evans, South Wales Evening Post, 14.11.10

THE merger of Swansea and Gorseinon Colleges could be given the go-ahead as early as next month — though the new institution still lacks a name. 

Plans for the link-up have been sent to the Assembly, which will have the final say.

If the merger goes ahead it would create the second biggest college in Wales with some 16,000 students. 

Under the plan Gorseinon College would keep its Belgrave Road base and be a sixth form centre, while the long-term aim for Swansea College would be to move to Parc Tawe in the city centre and focus on vocational courses up to degree level, open to learners of all ages. 

A shadow board of senior managers from both colleges is overseeing the merger, and it will then take over the running of the new institution in the summer if it is approved.

Gorseinon College principal, Nick Bennett, said: “We are pleased with the progress we have made towards the merger, in particular the formation of a shadow board, and the work that we have undertaken in planning our estate.

“We hope to have agreed a name for the newly-combined college shortly, and to have completed initial plans for a city centre site before the spring.”

The colleges held a public consultation on the merger last year with staff, the public, and local community groups.

Part of the consultation process involved looking for a new name for the combined college, a question which the colleges said produced an “overwhelming” number of suggestions.

The consultation document said the merger would seek to maintain the “unique identities” of both colleges and would lead to more choice for students and savings — but unions have expressed concerns that it will mean job cuts. Currently there are around 900 staff at Swansea College, and 450 at Gorseinon.

If the plan goes ahead, both colleges would be dissolved, to be replaced by a new single institution from August 1.

An Assembly spokesman confirmed Cardiff Bay had received the merger proposals and was considering them.

He said: “If the supporting business case provides evidence that a merger would be in the best interests of the local community and bring significant improvements for learners, then officials will submit the proposal to the Education Minister for his consideration.

“The outcome of these considerations is likely to be known within a six-week period.”

Posted in Gorseinon College, Mergers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Merger documents point the way forward

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Monday, 11 January, 2010

Meeting the Communication Challenge during College MergerTo my knowledge there are at least six colleges in Wales that are in various stages of a merger process.  Two timely documents have recently arrived on my desk which may help managers in FE colleges manage the merger process a bit more smoothly.

The first document, Meeting the Communication Challenge During College Merger advises further education colleges throughout the UK on how to manage communications effectively during a college merger process. The booklet clearly identifies the communications challenges which Northern Ireland’s Further Education colleges have faced since they merged from 16 to six in August 2007 and outlines a series of strategies designed to meet and overcome these challenges.

The second report is entitled Understanding FE Mergers by Natasha Calvert.   This report is based on research undertaken by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), to examine the factors that drive mergers among colleges, the circumstances in which they happen and the elements that make them work.

Both reports were written in 2009 and therefore are recent and welcome additions to the sparse literature which appears to exist on the subject of FE mergers. 

I have complied a list of relevant documents on FE mergers which can be accessed here.   The aim of the list was to highlight documents on mergers which didn’t focus on specific college mergers.  If anyone has any other suggestions for this list please send them to me at:

Posted in Colleges, Management, Mergers | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

fforwm changes its name

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Friday, 20 November, 2009

For anyone who has had to explain what fforwm means (and whether it is spelt with a capital “f” or not), worry no more.  This month saw the organisation change its name to a more representative title: ColegauCymru / CollegesWales.  Of course it comes with a new website, although information can still be accessed through the old one.

To celebrate this change, John Graystone, the chief executive, uses his regular column in the Western Mail to outline the achievements of fforwm and his hopes for ColegauCymru / CollegesWales.

For future reference, ColegauCymru / CollegesWales can be contacted at:
Website:  or
Moodle registered users only.
Twitter at: www.Twitter/CollegesWales for the very latest news.


Posted in CollegeWales, fforwm | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The good, the bad and the new (technology, that is…)

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Thursday, 12 November, 2009

FacebookThree recent articles seem to encapsulate the fears and the hopes of technology in a learning setting:

The first article on the use of Facebook in FE colleges is very positive.  Facebook ‘cuts student drop-outs’ (BBC Website) examines the use of social networking as a means of improving student retention and helping students to meet deadlines and targets.  Students on media related courses at Gloucestershire College are encouraged to enrol onto closed group pages on Facebook.  Staff regularly check the site for questions and comments whilst students can use the pages on their mobile phones. The whole experience helps create a community within courses and thus leads to a reduction in students dropping out.

City of Sunderland College broaden out the use of Facebook beyond media students to encompass subjects such as Biology.  In this context, Facebook is used as a gentle reminder or prod to students to meet deadlines.

Meanwhile Francis Gilbert, writing in the Guardian gives a very positive slant on the use of mobile phones in the classroom. Used wisely and imaginatively “pupils can Bluetooth their work to each other, set deadlines on the digital diaries, research issues on the web, take videos of teachers explaining key points. Most significantly for me, the new breed of smartphones, which have big screens and memories, can hold e-books.”

The flip side of mobile phones in the classroom is however fully realised in a report on the BBC website, in which researchers concluded “that modern gadgets worsened pupils’ spelling and concentration, encouraged plagiarism and disrupted lessons.”

All reports acknowledge that these technologies are here to stay and that students are very familiar with them.  Perhaps it is best to recognise that fact and think of positive and creative ways of using social and mobile technologies than fighting a losing battle against them.

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College plans for city centre campus

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Thursday, 10 September, 2009

South Wales Evening Post, 10.09.09

Swancoll logoSWANSEA College is planning to abandon its Tycoch home and move in to the centre of the city.

Parc Tawe is the favoured location for the momentous switch, which will form part of its proposed merger with Gorseinon College.

However, it might face competition for the city centre site — retail giant Tesco is rumoured to be interested in building a new supermarket there.

The merger of the two colleges was revealed last November, and since then both institutions have been working on the plans.

A consultation document says that the “unique identities” of both colleges will be retained in the new merged college, which will be the second biggest in Wales.

Under the plans, Gorseinon College will keep its Belgrave Road base and will be a sixth form centre, while in the long-term Swansea College will move to Parc Tawe and focus on vocational courses up to degree level, open to learners of all ages.

The document says a move into the city will allow “areas to the east of the city to be served more adequately than at present”.

Anthony Robertson, vice-principal of Swansea College, said: “Our vision for a merged college is that it will bring together two complementary, successful organisations to create an institution that will provide outstanding learning opportunities and experiences for young people, adults and employers in Swansea.

“Among the proposals for the new college is a new campus in the Parc Tawe area. This would not only provide an iconic, state-of-the-art learning environment for students and staff but it would also greatly assist Swansea Council in their regeneration of the city centre.

“The long-term aim is that, should the merger go ahead, the main sites of the new college would be Belgrave Road, Gorseinon, and Swansea city centre. Some existing buildings of Swansea College, such as the Tycoch campus, would eventually close but that would be a few years down the line.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Colleges, Estates, Gorseinon College, Mergers | Leave a Comment »

Supercollege for Cardiff

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Wednesday, 19 August, 2009

Glan HafrenBarry
The process of merging two of South Wales’ FE colleges continues apace.  Coleg Glan Hafren and Barry College are now at the stage where the governing bodies of each college have  proposed combining to create a regional college serving Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Preliminary investigations began in September 2008 after a Welsh Assembly Government report urged colleges to collaborate to establish “regional networks”.

Barry College and Coleg Glan Hafren jointly commissioned external consultants to research the issue.

A report proposing the merger was submitted to and welcomed by WAG’s Department of Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills.

Together the two existing colleges serve 21,000 students across eight sites in Barry, Rhoose and Cardiff, and offer more than 1,000 courses.  If the merger does go ahead it is expected that the new college will begin its new life in September 2010.

For further details on this report see :
Plans to create a new regional super college, by Katie Norman, South Wales Echo, 05.08.09,

Posted in Colleges, Mergers | Leave a Comment »

Welsh education grants system “a complete mess”

Posted by Mark Ludlam on Monday, 3 August, 2009

Angela Burns: Grants system " a complete mess to be honest"

Angela Burns: Grants system " a complete mess to be honest"

A report by  the finance committee of the Welsh Assembly Government has concluded that the present system for allocating education grants to schools and colleges in Wales is confused and bureaucratic.

The report focuses mainly on schools and local authorities but also includes colleges in its remit.  As a result of this confusion schools and colleges could be missing out on thousands of pounds.  Schools complained that they were not aware of what grants were available.  Presumably, colleges are better equipped to deal with this problem as most have external funding offices.  

For colleges the problem appears to be one of bureaucracy.  Angela Burns AM, chair of the committee, commented on the BBC website:

 “It’s a nonsense when you think you have someone running for example a further education college and is responsible for £16m worth of budget a year and yet in order to get a £5,000 grant they have to jump through more hoops than they would have to for their £16m a year.”

BBC website: “Grants confusion “costs schools” 

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