High tech future for Doncaster college after merger

Anne Tyrrell, Doncaster College Principal.
Anne Tyrrell, Doncaster College Principal.
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It's five months since Doncaster College merged with one its neighbours - and its leaders reckon they are already seeing the benefits.

The formalities to complete the merger with North Lindsey College, in Scunthorpe, were completed in November. The result was the new DN Colleges Group.

The plans were announced in May 2017, and the deal was rubber stamped in Novermber, after a consultation programme.

For chief executive Anne Tyrrell, it is early days. But even at this stage, she says it has made a difference.

For her, one piece of evidence is a deal which saw top hairdresser Lee Stafford strike up a training deal with the organisation.

The Lee Stafford Education Academy was launched at the colleges in September, at which point the plans for the merger were well underway.

It aims to use Lee's expertise to make students highly employable across the country in hairdressing. It is the organisation's only base in South Yorkshire.

Mrs Tyrrell says the academy would not have some to Doncaster College had it not have merged, to produce a biggest organisation with more students.

She said: "It's a joint development - both sites have a Lee Stafford Academy in hairdressing. Lee Stafford is a big name in hairdressing, and it started last term, and we got that because the two colleges have merged.

"What that gives our students is a real opportunity to enter national competitions. Lee comes in himself and does workshops with the students, and all staff are trained up by him, and that keeps them up to date. He is a big name nationally and he is all about employability."

The college group as it is today is now the 15th largest college in the country, as the DN Group. Its combined higher education operation is the sixth biggest in the country for a college.

Mrs Tyrrell says this is also helping it improve its infrastructure.

Work is underway on an improved joint website, and its wifi has been improved on its sites.

The plan is that both colleges will continue to operate as self contained venues. Students who apply to study at Doncaster will study there. Those who apply to North Lindsey will study there, and both colleges still retain their names on their own sites

But there will be chances for students at one college to share the facilities on the other's buildings.

For students at Doncaster, this is expected to mean, for instance, that trainee motor mechanics would be able to use a specialist paint work and body shop at Scunthorpe. Similarly, North Lindsey students will get the chance to use Doncaster's highly rated hospitality and catering facilities.

"We're aiming that students will be able to use them from both sides," said Mrs Tyrrell.

High tech expansion plans

Doncaster's newly merged college is looking to expand its higher education and apprenticeships going forward in the future - with high tech creative computer skills high on the agenda.

At present, college bosses are already proud of the Doncaster site's computer animation courses, and they are looking to build on that in the future, along with business related degrees that it wants to increase.

Chief executive Anne Tyrrell said: "Doncaster has really good facilities for animation and gaming - and both colleges have very good university centres.

"There are new opportunities in business and administration, but we certainly want to grow the creative digital route, and move towards digitisation in industry.

"On the whole creative digital area, we are growing the number of courses and the level of the courses. It is recognising where trends are coming from. All companies now have people working on their websites and videos, and we are looking to create job related skills.

"We will also be looking at logistics and transport related courses, in recognition of the jobs out there.

"Our plans are for growth in higher education and we're developing targets and a plan. We are confident in the future. If it is successful for us, it is successful for our students, and successful for Doncaster."

The university centre courses were moved into the college's base at Waterfront last year after the college decided to close its High Melton site.

Sports related courses were moved out to the Deaf College on Leger Way, and performing arts courses are now using facilities at the Cast Theatre at Waterdale

Only one course is now remaining at Doncaster College's former High Melton site - highways maintenance.

No decision has yet been made on where that will be moved. The college has a space there which is used to work on road mending techniques.

The college also still operates a site in Stainforth, teaching music.