York-based Askham Bryan College has confirmed it will no longer deliver educational provision from its Newton Rigg campus at Penrith beyond next July — but hope remains strong that the Cumbrian site will continue to operate under new ownership.
Askham Bryan’s governing body announced its plan to close Newton Rigg in May and has since been conducting a 45-day formal consultation with staff at the Penrith campus and recognised trade unions.
Having concluded this process, Askham Bryan’s governing body confirmed its “final decision” to pull out of Newton Rigg, following a meeting on Monday.
However, a number of other groups have expressed an interest in providing education at Newton Rigg in the future.
Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson said: “While this is disappointing news from Askham Bryan, confirming their intentions for the college campus, it doesn’t change where we are — we are now in an exciting process of a Government-led strategic review to evaluate bids from interested parties who are coming forward with innovative plans to take over Newton Rigg.
“I encourage staff, students and other Newton Rigg stakeholders that my campaign and work to save Newton Rigg very much continues. Newton Rigg is very much open for business this upcoming academic year. Keep the faith and we can do this!”
According to Askham Bryan, student recruitment and enrolment, and courses from September to July of next year, are continuing as planned. Newton Rigg staff will remain in post until next summer.
Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer and principal at Askham Bryan, said: “We understand the strength of feeling for Newton Rigg. This has been a very difficult decision to make and the prospect of future job losses is regrettable.”
He added: “However, we have no other option given the demographic and recruitment challenges and financial losses that we have faced, which we have shared previously. We are doing everything we can to support our Newton Rigg staff and students during these challenging times.”
Around 117 staff and 888 learners are based at Newton Rigg Campus. They include 667 further education students and 221 apprentices.<\!p>
A team from the Further Education Commissioner is co-ordinating the strategic review of Newton Rigg mentioned by Dr Hudson, which is exploring finding a potential new owner for the site.
The FEC team, part of the Department for Education, is co-ordinating expressions of interest, which must be submitted by the end of August and will be assessed against set criteria.
Askham Bryan College purchased Newton Rigg in 2011, since when it has invested considerable funds in the campus, and says it has absorbed financial losses.