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Taking action in higher education

Questions must be answered on 'rushed' college merger proposal

27 February 2013 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Serious questions must be answered about a proposed merger between Stourbridge College and Birmingham Metropolitan College, said UCU today.

The union says the colleges' managers have blocked it from gaining access to key information about the proposed merger. The union submitted a Freedom of Information request asking to see documents with details of different options for the future of the two colleges. The colleges refused to comply with that request, preventing UCU from comparing all the options.

In a letter this month, the further education minister advised colleges on how mergers can best be carried out. He recommended that different options should be carefully considered and advised that the wider community should be involved from the start of any merger process. UCU has seen no evidence either recommendation has been carried and college managers told the union they felt they could disregard the minister's advice.

The union has also highlighted the fact that if Stourbridge College is to be dissolved and become part of Birmingham Metropolitan College, there has to be an open and competitive process.

UCU believes the whole process has been too rushed and college leaders must go back to the drawing board and put key information out in the open and follow the advice from education minister, Matthew Hancock.

UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: 'Questions have to be asked about how the colleges' management have arrived at this rushed merger proposal, blocking UCU from seeing key documents in the process.

'At a time when our members feel anxious about their security of work it is extremely unsettling to be denied the opportunity to scrutinise the information that has led to this proposal. It is a bit like being asked to comment on the goals when you have not seen the match.

'We would like to see the two colleges go back to the drawing board, but this time be open with information and give staff, students and anyone else affected the opportunity for genuine consultation.'