AN HISTORIC Oxford college which has faced ‘financial challenges’ in recent years has joined the University of West London.

Ruskin College was founded in 1899, however has been struggling financially.

Last year, the college suspended its Social Work BA (Hons) programme due to ‘financial and regulatory factors’.

The University of West London was approached and a deal to ensure a ‘secure future’ has been made.

Peter John, vice-chancellor of the University of West London, said: “This is an exciting moment in the history of both Ruskin College and the University of West London.

“We look forward to re-energising the college so it can continue to deliver its historic mission while ensuring its learners achieve their full potential.”

Jennifer Bernard, chair of the board of governors at the University of West London, added: “The board was unanimous in its decision to bring Ruskin College into the University of West London family.

“Our vision is to combine Ruskin’s traditions with our own deep commitment to the delivery of a genuinely exceptional education for all.”

In February, it was announced Ruskin would merge with Activate Learning, which oversees the City of Oxford College, and Banbury and Bicester College.

However, that deal now appears to be off.

Sally Dicketts, group chief executive at Activate Learning, said: “We announced in February that Activate Learning had been successfully selected as the merger partner for Ruskin College and we have been working with the board and management team at the Oxford-based college since then to complete the process.

“During the process, our due diligence identified a number of significant additional financial liabilities that would be passed to Activate Learning through the merger, which it would not be appropriate to burden the group with. 

“The most material liabilities were in connection with pension schemes that Activate Learning do not have an existing relationship with. 

“We have worked closely with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the potential creditors to try and identify an affordable solution, but unfortunately without success to this point.

“This creates a real risk of insolvency for Ruskin College which all stakeholders have been keen to avoid.     

“In seeking alternative ways of remaining solvent, the Ruskin College board has had to consider other options and they have now identified and resolved to pursue a new offer from an organisation that could proceed without triggering the liabilities that Activate Learning could not avoid.  

“As a result, it now seems unlikely that we will be able to welcome Ruskin College into the Activate Learning group as initially hoped.

“This is disappointing given the opportunities that would have been available to us, but it would have been wrong to pursue those at any cost.

“Safeguarding the longer term financial stability of the group has to be our priority and given that ESFA was not able to support a solution that could do so, we have to step back at this point.”