In 2015 the government initiated the Area Review process to rationalise the provision of Further Education in England. From an original cohort of around 300 FE colleges, it was expected that the number would fall by as much as a third.
At this point, the outcome has been a smaller reduction in numbers but there have been dozens of mergers, with the consequent changes to personnel, locations, assets, brands and strategies.
In the early days of the FE process, there was limited knowledge of what basics such as 'due diligence' actually entailed, what the implications of findings might be, and how to square the circle of political pressure to merge versus the business case for doing so. Now FE colleges are much more savvy and have a greater appreciation of what is involved.
The best prepared of the merging colleges are those with clear and flexible strategic plans and who have prepared by consulting with their advisors - lawyers and accountants - to make sure they are up to speed on what they want from a merger, and what is achieveable, before it happens to them.
Just like their colleagues in the FE sector, university leaders and governors need to be considering these issues. With the Augar Review reporting in January, plus Brexit, there are too many moving parts to be reactive.
Governors and senior leaders shouldn’t just wait until their diary flags that it is time for the next strategic planning cycle. The world is changing too quickly for static strategic planning