Merger with City of Westminster College

The Corporations of the College of North West London and City of Westminster College have agreed to proceed with the proposed merger of the two colleges.

This decision was taken at their individual corporation meetings on May 17 and 24 respectively. The Corporations considered the outcome of the independent due diligence reports to be favourable to the merger proposals. Responses received during the consultation period were also given due consideration. A full response from the consultation process has been produced and is available here.

Individuals who submitted a written response during the consultation process will also receive a personal reply.

Terms of reference for a Shadow Board, which is led by Chair Designate Tony Johnston, were similarly approved, and arrangements to appoint members are now being progressed.

While the merger is subject to final approval from the Secretary of State, it is expected that the process will complete in time for the Colleges to finalise legal merger on 1 August 2017.

Tony Johnston, Chair Designate, said: “Both college corporations are satisfied that the merger is the best strategic approach to securing a successful future. The formation of the new group places us in the best position to deliver outstanding technical, academic and vocational education, and serve the needs of employers and the communities of Westminster, Brent and the wider region.”

The colleges are also pleased to announce the Corporations have jointly appointed Keith Cowell as Chief Executive Officer Designate and Andy Cole as Group Principal Designate.

Both Keith, currently Principal and Chief Executive of City of Westminster College, and Andy, currently Principal and Chief Executive of The College of North West London, will continue in their existing roles alongside their additional responsibilities until the proposed merger in August 2017. They will then take up their new positions in full for the merged institution, which it is proposed will be called United Colleges Group.

Speaking of his new appointment, Keith Cowell, Principal & Chief Executive Officer at City of Westminster College said “I believe the future of both colleges are better together and we have worked hard to ensure that as a combined organisation we have a vision to deliver the highest quality education and training opportunities for students and employers across West and Central London, and beyond.”

Andy Cole added: “With growing recognition of the importance of vocational skills and apprenticeships to the future of our economy, this is an exciting time for the colleges to be coming together. Our mutual strengths and quality of provision mean the new merged college will present an excellent training proposition to employers and be a first-choice destination for individual students.” 

Keith Cowell has a proven track in FE leadership and in his nine years as Principal of City of Westminster College, he has successfully led the college through £100m campus redevelopments, an Ofsted Grade 2, a successful three years’ growth strategy which has brought a significant growth in student numbers and financial stability at a time during student cutbacks. Keith has significantly improved the outcomes of students so that CWC has the highest timely achievement rates for apprenticeships in London, and the highest overall achievement rates in central London, culminating in City of Westminster College becoming London’s top vocational college 2015. He has worked in the Further Education sector for 32 years and has taught on and managed a full spectrum of courses. Keith represents post 16 education on European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme Board and is a member of the AoC Skills Portfolio Group.

Andy Cole became Principal of the College of North West London in January 2014. Since his appointment, the College has been inspected as ‘Good’ by Ofsted and success rates overall have risen to be significantly above national rates, with particularly strong improvements in success among young learners and apprentices. He is also now AoC WorldSkills Champion for London. Prior to joining CNWL, Andy was Vice Principal at City of Westminster College. His role there involved strategic management of CWC’s curriculum and funding allocation. In his three years there, Andy oversaw CWC’s most successful Ofsted inspection, a 16% improvement in student success rates and an annual growth in student numbers, including bringing in 300 extra apprentices. He has worked in the FE sector for 31 years including work on national curriculum and qualification reform.

Tony Johnston has served on the CNWL Corporation for two years, including as Chair for the past four months. Outside the College, Tony is Managing Director of Engage Media Training. Prior to that, he ran Press Association Training for 10 years, building it into Europe’s biggest private journalism and media training company. In both roles, Tony has worked with a range of clients across the world. He also has substantial experience in the education sector, having been instrumental in developing media training programmes in both the Higher and Further Education sectors. He previously served as Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber East Lifelong Learning Network, a partnership involving nine HE and FE Institutions.

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