Whether it’s for the greater good or not, a College merge is always going to throw everything up in the air. Questions are going to be raised and the worry of enrolment figures will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Colleges tend to merge for financial reasons, with Dr David Collins, Further Education Commissioner, once telling FE Week: “The truth of the matter is that there is clearly not enough money for the sector to continue as it is and rationalisation and collaboration is the new order of the day.” With this is mind, the merging of colleges could be becoming more common in the foreseeable future.
We spoke to the marketing team at a College, who merged with four others a couple of years ago. Here’s what we found out…
It all happens very quickly
Yes, it isn’t exactly comforting (and sorry for making it the first point), but it’s pretty important. Once the merger is announced and the relevant formalities are put into place, everything can suddenly move forward, very quickly. Make sure you are prepared, is there content you can begin writing in advance? Are there updated brand guidelines you now need to adopt?
Think about internal and external stakeholders
Bear in mind that it could be your job to explain the merge to all internal and external stakeholders, so aim for a shameless transition. Ensure that you are aware of the correct processes when planning and delivering various announcements. There may well be legal issues surrounding the merge, which you will need to adhere to when drafting press releases or directly communicating with local press.
Be aware of organisational structure
In any new organisation it’s normally assumed that the business model and structure is going to change slightly. Put in place a contingency plan as soon as possible, that outlines which members of staff report into which managers (making sure all teams are aware). One of the main problems faced, in any organisational restructure, is determining who signs off budget. Try to tackle this issue as early as possible, to avoid being being left out of the financial loop right in the middle of enrolment.
Recruitment targets should still be a priority
Even though a merge is taking place, it’s really important to ensure the College enrols as many students as possible. Despite the uncertainty, targets and enrolment numbers still need to be met. If the merge is taking place during the summer, in the run up to the new academic year, extra attention will need to be to given to the recruitment process.