Students at a popular North West college are facing an uncertain future, following news of an independent strategic review into Newton Rigg, Penrith.
The review of the college is to be carried out by the Department for Education at the request of Askham Bryan authorities, who have run the college since 2011, and will look into the operational running of the establishment.
Dr Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer and principal at Askham Bryan College, said ‘staff, students and external stakeholders have been informed of the decision’.
He said: “The governing body will consider the findings and decide what further action is needed, once the review is completed. The review is anticipated to conclude in May.”
The news of the college’s uncertain future is likely to have come as a shock to the North West rural community since recent years have seen considerable investment at the college complex, with the creation of a new dairy unit costing £2.4 million and a national centre for the uplands costing £430,000.
A feasibility study into the potential options for campus development was also announced last year.
Adam Day, managing director of the Farmer Network, an organisation based at the campus, shared on Facebook that the loss of the college would be ‘damaging not only for the farming community but for the wider rural communities of Cumbria’.
He said: “Our young people entering the industry at this time of change need to do so with confidence and relevant training, and a local seat of learning will be the fulcrum to ensure this.
“I fully understand that there are huge financial pressures in the further education sector but I sincerely hope we do not lose Newton Rigg as a respected and trusted seat of learning in Cumbria.
“It will be a huge detriment to our country, our communities and our businesses if we do.”
Former gamekeeping and countryside management student, Jack Depledge, posted on Facebook that it would be a ‘real loss to the rural education system if Newton Rigg were to close.’
“As a former student, it is unclear to me why the future of such an education provider is at risk, since the modern, diverse education of future students at Newton Rigg is integral to the sustainable management of the UK countryside and wildlife,” he said.
The college has reassured its 820 students and apprentices that courses for the academic year 2019/20 will continue as planned.