Educational institutions are continuing to merge to improve efficiency, curriculum delivery as well as for financial reasons.
In its simplest form, a merger is where one or more institutions cease to exist as a legal entity when incorporated into a new or existing institution. There are many examples of merged institutions in the sector1 including those between further education (FE) colleges, higher education (HE) institutions and also some FE/HE mergers. Colleges in England are also entering into multi-academy trusts2 with other providers including schools.
What you can do
Make informed decisions
The government’s the impact of mergers in further education report could help inform FE members as to where a merger could help improve performance, and assist with decision making.
In 2016, the Association of Colleges published a guide for governors and senior leaders on new structures (pdf), including advice on gathering supporting evidence necessary to inform decision-making, and a relevant merger case study.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
There may also be steps you must take. For example, any college considering significant structural change must undertake a college structure and prospects appraisal3 to evaluate strengths, weaknesses and local circumstances and determine the model that will best allow it to deliver its mission.
Consider the drivers for your merger
Being able to deliver high quality outputs in a cost-effective way is one reason to merge but there may be other drivers in terms of government policy, service delivery, improvement, reputation, competition or indeed survival.
Use our vision and strategy toolkit to help you gather, present and use evidence to plan for the future and whether mergers should form part of that future, while our guide to the key technology questions college leaders should ask can provide a framework for colleges to remain competitive and sustainable in an increasingly digital age, whether or not a merger takes place.
As with any major change process, you should ensure a strategic approach4 to quickly and effective respond to these drivers.
Look at alternatives
Where flexibility, low risk and low costs are imperative, you should consider alternatives to mergers. For example, sharing services can also save costs, increase efficiency and share knowledge. Our shared services including our shared data centre framework and our cloud team can help you reduce costs and make sure you are getting the best value from your investment in cloud.
Other options include, creating alliances, joining up networks or subcontracting services externally. It may be possible, for example to partner with another organisation to back up each other’s data.
Understand and address key issues
In the event of a merger going ahead, there will be technology issues to address before, during and after the formal process:
Are additional Janet Network connections required? Can existing connections across sites be used for greater resilience?
Will the pre-merger organisational identities be maintained, or will there be a new group identity? In both cases domain integration will need to be considered. Our trust and identity service may be able to help.
Are there separate Microsoft 365 tenancies? Can these be combined into one?
Are there opportunities to rationalise systems and services? A comparative analysis across all merging organisations should be undertaken.
Will there be changes to legal responsibilities which impact on technology, such as data protection5?
Can additional infrastructure be used to greater advantage, for example as a disaster recovery environment for other sites?
Find out more
Our key findings from 118 Jisc infrastructure reviews across the FE sector highlights the infrastructure considerations which should be made within all merging partners.
- 1 College mergers - Association of Colleges (AoC) website: https://www.aoc.co.uk/about-colleges/college-mergers
- 2 Guidance: Multi-academy trusts: establishing and developing your trust - via UK Government website https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/multi-academy-trusts-establis...
- 3 Structure and prospects appraisals - further guidance for further education colleges, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, April 2014 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...
- 4 How to shape your digital strategy, Jisc guide - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/how-to-shape-your-digital-strategy
- 5 Data protection, Jisc guide - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/data-protection