Quick guide

Understanding key issues for mergers in further and higher education

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Making an informed decision on whether a merger is the right choice for your organisation.

The issue 

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 sector 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 trusts 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.

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 appraisal 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 (pdf) 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 approach 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 protection?

Can additional infrastructure be used to greater advantage, for example as a disaster recovery environment for other sites?

This guide is made available under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND).