College Merger – How One College Outsmarted the ‘Dip in Performance’ Myth

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At last year’s AoC Annual Conference we spoke to a lot to college professionals and naturally, one of the hot topics that kept cropping up was the national review of Post 16+ education and training and the imminent area reviews. How would my college stack up against the competition? Could it survive on its own or are we at risk of take over? Should we merge or specialise? Isn’t there the risk of performance standards dropping after a merger? These were all common concerns we heard and it resonated with us as we’d recently been working with Coleg Cambria on our latest video case study.

When Coleg Cambria – one of the largest colleges in the UK –was formed in 2013 it was through the merger of the two largest FE institutions in North East Wales – Deeside College and Yale College. Each of the four main sites had their own operational structure, culture, dynamic and legacy information systems for their combined 27,000 students and 1,600 staff.

And as both Deeside and Yale were Grade 1 colleges there was a real concern that after the merger there could be an unwanted dip in overall college performance.

As David Jones, Principal and Chief Executive of Coleg Cambria explained to us: ‘Creating a new college, with a totally new name and trying to bring everyone on board is a massive challenge. If you want the merger to work you have to converge. And to do that an organisation needs to understand everything about its performance’.

So in terms of performance reporting of their main challenges -with the multiple legacy systems they had- was getting everyone to look at the same information at the same time. Bespoke reporting meant staff often had different versions of information which would lead to questions around the accuracy and validity of their data and information.

The time was right for a common new platform of uniform and reliable information that could be easily accessible by all across the college. But, like the rest of the public sector, the College also had to face big reductions in funding. They chose Active Dashboards as it would maximise their existing investment in their legacy systems by being flexible enough to bring data feeds from each source, provide robust analysis and give a holistic ‘converged’ view of college wide performance.

And the result?

“We’re rated No1 for further education in Wales and No. 2 for work based learning. Two years on from merger we haven’t had a dip in performance, and Active Dashboards have been an important part of that”.

And the advice David would give to any college in light of a possible merger?

“You really need to get hold of your data very quickly; be prepared to understand and cope with real-time changes. Looking at your performance isn’t just about looking once a year at it and then reporting to your Governing body; it’s a 24/7 operation. We’ve maintained our performance and we’ve had no financial problems. We use a red, amber, green approach at the top level to look at the organisation and the vast majority of our indicators are in green; just a few in amber and nothing in red. That’s a real measure of success and that’s what Active Dashboards provides for us”.

If you’re considering a merger, it’s time to seriously consider how Active Dashboards could help you.

Read the Coleg Cambria Case Study in full here.


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