PLANS are in place for two Dorset colleges to merge to become a single college. 

The potential joining of forces between Weymouth College and Kingston Maurward College near Dorchester is said to be the 'biggest strategic change in further education in Dorset since the Second World War.'

It is unknown whether the two colleges coming together would lead to job losses for staff.

If the merger goes ahead the colleges would form a Dorset College Group and students will be involved in deciding where their learning will take place, Kingston Maurward College principal Luke Rake said.

He added that the merger 'makes good financial sense'. 

The colleges are in talks to consider merging following discussions between the Department of Education, the Further Education Commissioner and both college boards.

The colleges are around 10 miles apart and have operated collaboratively in the past, offering a complementary range of courses, with the Kingston Maurward site focusing on land-based courses in agriculture, animal studies and horticulture, and Weymouth offering A Levels and a range of general and technical courses.

Dorset Echo:

Julia Howe, Principal and CEO of Weymouth College, said: “Weymouth College is very much looking forward to exploring the exciting prospect of a merger with Kingston Maurward College.

"We believe that this place-based solution, providing education, skills and training across rural and coastal Dorset will deliver a cohesive and high performing offer across many sectors for our local and regional communities."

Mr Rake said: “The new Dorset College Group is an exciting opportunity.

"The coming together of two colleges to create economies of scale to support the resilience of further eduction provision in Dorset makes good financial sense and ensures high quality land-based education continues for the county and its neighbours.”

The initial plans would enable both colleges to retain their identities and sites, harnessing both colleges' ‘extensive resources’.

Mr Rake, speaking on behalf of both colleges, said the new college group will look at the skills across both organisations in an effort to enhance the delivery across Dorset.

He said: "It is too early to say specifically what impacts this might have when it comes to change in staff."

He aded: “We will look to maximise opportunities across the county for learners as a single college, and this will also include travel to learn.”

Asked about whether students may have to move around different campuses in the future, Mr Rake said “Once the merger has been completed work to ensure the best location for any student delivery will continue, with students at the heart of any decision making.”

In a joint statement from the chairmen of the two colleges, Steve Webb and Robert Lasseter said: “We are very excited about the prospect of creating a single Dorset Further Education college, securing the future of education at the Weymouth and Kingston Maurward sites, and bringing the best of broad-based and land-based education together for the benefit of students of Dorchester, Weymouth, Portland and beyond.

“This is the biggest strategic change in further education in Dorset since the Second World War and also supports the further development of higher education in the area.

"Our ambition is that the new college will be a generational game changer fit for the rapidly changing challenges of our time,” they added.

A full public consultation on the plans is scheduled for the spring.