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Music college re-born in merger

Leeds College of Music has been taken over by a local further education college, Research Fortnight Today has learned.

The music college, a higher education corporation, was dissolved on 1 August.

Property, staff, rights and liabilities—including degree-awarding powers—have been transferred to a new charitable company, Leeds College of Music Limited. This company, limited by guarantee, was formed in April as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leeds City College.

The legal status of the new company offers advantages over higher education corporations that include the option of joining corporate groups and greater ability to access private finance.

The government is consulting on whether to make it easier for universities to change to a “legal form of their choosing”. Changing to a charitable company limited by guarantee could be a first step for public universities to move towards becoming for-profit companies.

Leeds College of Music had been in financial difficulties for several years and initially sought a merger with another higher education institution. When this was not forthcoming, the Higher Education Funding Council for England commissioned consultants to review the feasibility of merging with Leeds City College.

The college will continue to use its name and branding and has announced a major refurbishment plan made possible by the deal.

Announcing the news on the Leeds College of Music website, the principal, Philip Meaden, said, “We are looking forward to an exciting future as part of the Leeds City College group. The alliance enables us to make a substantial investment in our buildings and facilities, thereby ensuring that our current and future students receive the best possible preparation for their career, and consolidating Leeds College of Music’s position as the UK’s progressive conservatoire.”

There was no public consultation on the merger and transfer of assets. A legislative instrument signed by the universities minister, David Willetts, was issued in July and received no objections.

The 1988 Education Reform Act gives the Secretary of State power to dissolve higher education corporations if assets and liabilities are transferred to a new entity. In the Leeds case, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also consulted the Skills Funding Agency.