Croydon’s John Ruskin College has been forced to merge with a nearby competitor after it ran out of money.

The college in Selsdon which offers mostly vocational courses and apprenticeships has now officially merged with East Surrey College. 

The Department for Education (DfE) had to step in last year when the college started to struggle financially.

This was put down to a decline in student numbers affecting funding.

The most recent report from the DfE was published last week following a decision in March 2018 that the college would be subject of formal government intervention.

A letter from Anne Mitton, minister of state for apprenticeships, dated January 22, said: “It is clear from the Commissioner’s report that despite the recent improvements in quality and the substantial reductions in the college’s cost base, the significant decline in turnover, substantial operating losses and the gradual erosion of cash reserves, there is need for structural change.

“I know that you, your governors and senior leaders fully recognise this and I welcome the positive work the college has already undertaken to prepare for the planned merger with East Surrey College.”

The report urges the college to keep a tight rein on its budget after its forecast operating deficit of 15% of its turnover for the next financial year was described as unsustainable.

Back in October 2017 the college was rated as ‘requires improvement’ dropping from ‘outstanding’ at its previous inspection in 2013.

The report outlines that there was a problem with students underperforming but adds that John Ruskin has now improved the way it identifies struggling students.

Ms Milton adds that the report shows that there is no other option than for the merger with East Surrey College in Redhill.

The merger was made official last week and includes Reigate School of Art, John Ruskin College and East Surrey College.

The trio will be known as Orbital South Colleges.

Principal at East Surrey, Jayne Dickinson, has been appointed chief executive of the group while Kevin Standish has been appointed principal of

John Ruskin College.

Ms Dickinson said that students at John Ruskin will not be expected to move to Redhill as both college sites will remain open.

She said: “Students will continue to apply, enrol and study at each college as usual – there are plans already in place for growth at both colleges.

“Although numbers have been showing a decline there are still many hundreds of students at John Ruskin College and applications for September 2019 are showing an increase already.

“The merger brings new opportunities for growth of new provision for students in the area and progression opportunities – again higher education and growth.”

She added that the merger will mean students will get the chance to work with employers in a wider area.