Bosses of Newton Rigg College say claims made by Cumbrian peers about it and the sale of the agricultural college are ‘categorically untrue’ and misleading.
On Wednesday, former Workington MP Lord Dale Campbell-Savours spoke in the House of Lords and described its owners, Askham Bryan, as a ‘predator college’ and said the sale of the campus, near Penrith, was an ‘appalling betrayal’.
He told the house Newton Rigg was being sold by a team of Yorkshire accountants to pay off Askham Bryan College’s escalating debts.
Lord David Clark said: “Those who have been responsible for this outrage should hang their heads in shame as they now proceed to sell off its assets through estate agents Savills in a grand fire sale.”
But Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer and principal of Askham Bryan College, said: “We strongly refute these claims, which are false and misleading.
“The allegations of asset stripping, bankruptcy, insolvency, duplicity and secrecy are all categorically untrue.
“Although Askham Bryan College has faced financial challenges that are common across the further education sector, it has not required formal government financial intervention from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
“The college followed a rigorous, 18-month independent review process of its Cumbrian campus which involved sector experts and was led by the Further Education Commissioner.
“The college has communicated with students, staff and stakeholders throughout.
“The review process concluded that the closure of Newton Rigg Campus was the only viable option open to the college.
“The process was also unable to find an appropriate alternative education provider to take over the site.
“For 10 years we have strived to make the provision of education at Newton Rigg campus sustainable and heavily subsidised the site, but, regrettably, it is not viable.
“Since 1992, four other educational organisations have also tried but not been able to make Newton Rigg sustainable and no obvious alternative providers have been identified since the decision to close was taken.
“Askham Bryan College is legally within its rights to proceed with the closure and sale of its Newton Rigg campus and this has been acknowledged by the government.
“Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Education, confirmed this in a response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee published last month.
“We have a responsibility to invest in and ensure the very best experience for all Askham Bryan College students across all our campuses.
We regret the impact of the difficult closure decision on our Newton Rigg Campus students and staff and are doing all we can to support them at this difficult time.”
A statement from the college said student recruitment to the college’s York campus remains buoyant with a 13% rise in enrolments for 16-19 year olds this academic year and had attracted additional external investment as part of its involvement with projects such as the Institute of Technology, Digital Skills Academy, and BioYorkshire.
Sign our petition to help save Newton Rigg: