Coleg Powys and Neath Port Talbot College to merge

Coleg Powys in Newtown
Image caption Coleg Powys has more than 6,500 full and part-time students

Two further education colleges in mid and south west Wales are to merge, officials have announced.

Coleg Powys and Neath Port Talbot College will unite on 1 August, 2013.

In a letter to staff, Coleg Powys principal Simon Pirotte said there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the merger.

Between them the two colleges have 12 campuses and more than 18,000 students, covering about a third of Wales.

Coleg Powys has campuses in Newtown, Brecon, Llandrindod Wells and Ystradgynlais, while Neath Port Talbot College's are in Afan, two in Neath, Llandarcy, Pontardawe, Caerau, near Maesteg, Margam Park, and Llansamlet, Swansea.

It follows other mergers in the FE sector in Wales, which has seen Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, Coleg Menai and Llandrillo all merge, and Yale College in Wrexham with Deeside College.

The move towards larger further education institutions in Wales has been championed by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

Graham Cragg, the Coleg Powys chair of governors, said: "This is the culmination of a long process.

"As part of its feasibility study, Coleg Powys has considered a range of merger options with some outstanding organisations.

"There was overwhelming support from the governing body for a merger with Neath Port Talbot College. We were particularly impressed by the quality of the service it offers its learners and its dynamic entrepreneurial vision."

Mr Cragg said the move would mean a stronger and broader range of educational opportunities and an increased finances for long-term planning and development.

Neath Port Talbot College's chair of governors Gaynor Richards said it was seen as the "next natural step in our journey at the college".

She added: "This merger will ensure that, as we move into our 81st year of operation at the main campus, we can look forward to at least another 80 years.

"Very importantly, the merger will also offer the increased capacity for bilingual services and an opportunity to work closely with the new Welsh language commissioner in the establishment of new and improved services."

But Conservative Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies voiced caution.

"I have recognised for some time that delivering further education in Powys is unsustainable because of falling rolls," said Mr Davies.

"There will inevitably be some concern about the arrangement - a much larger partner will dominate. It's important the interests of Powys students are protected."

Labour Neath AM Gwenda Thomas welcomed the plans.

She said: "This is a hugely ambitious endeavour that, if successful, will improve education for tens of thousands of students across the nation."

The merger will create a single college serving an area with 270,000 residents, with a turnover of £53m.

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