Sunderland and Hartlepool college merger hailed a success a year on

Ellen Thinnesen and Mark Hughes at Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Ellen Thinnesen and Mark Hughes at Hartlepool Sixth Form College.

The merger of two North East colleges has proved to be a resounding success, one year on.

Sunderland College merged with Hartlepool Sixth Form College in September 2017 and it is showing significant benefits and the creation of new opportunities as well as improved outcomes for students, staff and other stakeholders.

Together we have become more resilient

Ellen Thinnesen

The overall pass rate for both colleges combined is an impressive 97.5%.

The merger has also secured the financial future of the only bespoke sixth form college in Hartlepool and has enabled substantial new investments in the learning environment, with a new, state-of-the-art digital academy and curriculum launching this September.

The merger resulted in a single governing board and consolidated leadership with staff at both colleges sharing best practice and some have progressed into newly created leadership positions.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive, who has overall responsibility for both colleges, said: “We passionately believe in delivering educational opportunities and a high quality learning experience, with students at the heart of everything we do.

“It has been a pleasure working in partnership with colleagues and stakeholders within Hartlepool and across the wider Tees Valley. We look forward to this collaborative approach continuing.

“We are delighted to report that one year on, the merger has created more opportunities for our stakeholders including students, staff and employers; ensured the future stability of Hartlepool Sixth Form College; improved performance; and enabled both colleges to meet the needs of its local people and local business community.

“Together we have become more resilient, and with our shared vision for excellence, we are creating a future that is ambitious and successful and offers long-term growth.”

Mark Hughes, head of Hartlepool Sixth Form College, said: “During the last 12 months, since merger, we have experienced significant improvements. We are currently enrolling our new intake of students and have seen a 3% increase in applications compared to last year.

“We are enjoying working with our colleagues at Sunderland and look forward to the future.”

Sunderland College is one of the largest providers of post-16 education in the North East with three campuses across the city of Sunderland and the sixth form college in Hartlepool.