Oxford college 'preferred bidder' for TVU
Published: 31 Dec 2009 09:001 comment
SIXTH form education at Thames Valley University is likely to be handed over to an Oxford-based college in the new year despite claims the bidding process was "unfair".
The apparent front-runner to take on further education provision at the Reading campus was Bracknell and Wokingham College, which runs courses in Earley, Woodley and Winnersh. But The Chronicle understands it was beaten as 'preferred bidder' by an alliance of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College (OCVC) and the not-for-profit Learning And Skills Network.
But Reading East MP Rob Wilson said he had "significant concerns" about the bid process, which was advertised nationally from October.
The Chronicle exclusively revealed in July that TVU wanted to "divest itself" of its college, but not its higher education courses.
A source close to the discussions told The Chronicle: "Bracknell College had been a front-runner in the bid and there is some surprise that it has gone to Oxford."
Mr Wilson, a former shadow higher education minister whose constituency includes TVU's Reading campus, confirmed OCVC was the preferred bidder and said he has already written to further education minister Kevin Brennan with his concerns about the application process, saying not all bidders had equal time.
He wrote: "I am concerned that this process has been hurried at certain points, unfair and has failed in some of its basic due diligence."
Mr Wilson said he wanted to ensure further education at the college was well-funded, adding: "Further education provision at Reading College requires an organisation that can make the required changes and investment."
Another joint bid is understood to have come from Bedford College and the Reading-based CfBT education trust (formerly the Centre for British Teachers).
Bob Walding, area director for the Learning And Skills Council (LSC) told a Reading Borough Council meeting in October that the LSC considered setting up a new independent college but had insufficient time.
Mr Walding was unavailable when The Chronicle went to press yesterday (Wednesday), as were TVU, OCVC and Reading borough education leader Cllr Jon Hartley.