Hackney Community College and Tower Hamlets College to merge

Hackney Community College.

Hackney Community College. - Credit: Archant

Hackney Community College (HCC) and Tower Hamlets College are to merge, to create a ‘super college’ for 17,000 east London students.

Ian Ashman

Ian Ashman - Credit: Archant

A consultation was launched last month on the proposal, in the face of tough cuts to education budgets forced on them by Whitehall, with HCC losing nearly a third of its £10m budget for adult education during the last Parliament.

This morning it was announced that both colleges in the two neighbouring London boroughs will keep their names and campuses - Hackney Community in Falkirk Street, Hoxton, and Tower Hamlets at Poplar and Stepney - with the amalgamation set for August.

HCC Principal Ian Ashman, who has overseen the college for the past decade, will continue in his role until the end of July when the merger takes place, and will then work in an advisory role to support the colleges through the merger successfully until the end of the year.

He told the Gazette: “I’m absolutely of the belief that the merger which is taking place is the best to secure the future of provision in Hackney, we have faced financial challenges and risen to those, but looking forward some of our courses could be at risk if we don’t go ahead, because things are getting difficult financially.”

Tower Hamlets College principal Gerry McDonald

Tower Hamlets College principal Gerry McDonald - Credit: Archant

While Tower Hamlets has a £1.2m deficit, it has reserves to draw on, which HCC does not.

“The reserves have gone up and down, during the Olympics we were able to put a million aside in reserves but that has had to be spent on redundancies,” explained Mr Ashman.

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“It’s been an incredibly difficult time. Colleges were hit by the low priority given to adult education in the last Parliament, we lost £3m and because we had more adult students we were more vulnerable to that reduction in adult funding.

“Because of reducing courses we have had to make staff redundant, and we have had to pay substantial amounts of money on redundancies, so hence we don’t have any reserves.”

He continued: “For me the important thing is that in this agreement we have used the phrase “a partnership of equals”.

“We are obviously both good quality colleges as judged by Ofsted, and bringing the two together will create a strong institution that can be more successful in the future.”

Gerry McDonald, who has been appointed as chief executive, will continue in his role as

Principal of Tower Hamlets College, alongside carrying out the role of Chief Executive Designate.