North East colleges join forces in a confederation

The move will ensure tens of thousands of students benefit from the best possible access to further education (FE) expertise, job opportunities and links with employers, and strengthen employer training across the North East.

The move creates the region's first FE college confederation and is among only a handful of similar initiatives in the UK.

Both colleges will remain independent organisations in their own right with their own principal / chief executives and governing bodies, but will work far closer, sharing ideas and collaborating on initiatives that will ultimately deliver even higher standards of training and skills provision.

They will each continue to focus on their own local communities.

 The confederation will provide wide ranging benefits including:

  • Improved standards of teaching, learning and assessment
  • More flexible responses to employers’ needs
  • Development and career opportunities for college staff
  • Acceleration of innovative student-led enterprise activities
  • Business growth and increased market share
  • Ability to influence regional and national policy.

Those behind the move believe the colleges' combined size, scale, vision and influence will make them more resilient to future challenges and both will benefit from a more regional perspective enabling them to deliver a responsive and comprehensive offer to North East businesses and the wider community.

From today (Friday September 20) Mike Hopkins, currently principal / chief executive of Middlesbrough College becomes confederation group chief executive. He will report directly to a newly formed confederation board under the chair of businessman Robin Mackie, who remains chair of Gateshead College. Bob Brady, chair of Middlesbrough College becomes vice-chair of the new confederation.

Judith Doyle will continue to lead Gateshead College as principal / chief executive and Middlesbrough College has started the process to recruit a new principal / chief executive.

Each college has particular strengths that benefit one another and both colleges are also members of the entrepreneurial Gazelle Colleges Group. They have both been awarded Investors in People Gold.

Robin Mackie, chair of Gateshead College and the new confederation, said: “The confederation, the first in the region, provides the basis for a strong, equal partnership that will put the two colleges firmly at the forefront of regional FE provision delivering high quality, expanded services.

“Each college will retain its autonomy, and local focus, but there will be huge value and opportunity in growing and developing areas working together.”

Bob Brady, chair of Middlesbrough College, said “This is a really positive move for both colleges and the region.

“It will give us the opportunity to better meet the needs of our local communities whilst also developing a national profile so we can influence national policy and better represent the interests of the region.

“We are confident that this new partnership will secure the future of our colleges in the long term.”

Mike Hopkins, newly appointed group chief executive of the confederation, said: “I am delighted to lead this new partnership. Bringing the collective strengths of our colleges together is good news for all concerned.

“I am very much looking forward to working with the boards and principal / chief executives of both organisations and believe this move has the potential to shape and transform the context of education and training in our region.

“Forming a regional partnership will allow us to play a key role in ensuring that the North East continues to develop a vibrant, sustainable and high value economy.”