Congratulations to Nick Juba on his appointment as CEO of the new combined City College and Northbrook College. The task ahead is not an easy one, but if you manage to achieve the objectives set for you by the boards of the two colleges, the potential outcome could be a very good one for thousands of students. Mergers and takeovers are always challenging in situations where the culture of the two parts is very different and that is certainly the case here. Many students have chosen to travel into Brighton from West and East Sussex in order to study at City College, but there have also been many others that have chosen to travel from the City out to Northbrook. In some cases this has been because the course options have been different such as the provision of aeronautical engineering at Shoreham, but in others these decisions have been taken even though comparable courses were available on both sites. Having been involved in a number of mergers of local charities I have experience of this, albeit as a Trustee. Technically the two Colleges are charities, but they are a world away from the charities I refer to. Nevertheless the principles carry across, as they do from business. Refocusing the priorities of one or both institutions can be a challenge, equally bringing some level of common bond to the staff team is not at all easy, but in time and with hard work these can be achieved. However the colleges don’t share the same culture and that is a much more challenging element, I hope Nick can harmonize the cultures across all parts of the new enterprise and retain the best from both of these institutions for the sake of all students. The real challenge is to ensure that the unique culture at Northbrook is not absorbed into that of City College, particulary bearing in mind that Nick has been the CEO of City College, albeit only for a short time!
A shortened version of this blog was published yesterday in the Brighton Argus as an Opinion Piece.