Bicton College says ‘we are in debt, but closure is not an option’

  • Bicton College is awaiting news on whether it could be saved from closure.

    The agricultural college – which has 1,700 students, 334 of whom are enrolled on its 16 equine courses – has been in financial difficulties since 2006.

    Devon’s last agricultural college has been in negotiations over a rescue package with Exeter College for over 18 months.

    But the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has insisted that Exeter take out a substantial loan to cover Bicton’s £3million previously incurred debts.

    Exeter College has rejected this proposal on the grounds that such a loan would threaten its own financial stability and obligations to support its own students.

    A statement from Bicton College said: “Unless the LSC alters its position, Exeter College will withdraw its support for the federation from 19 March 2010.”

    After this date Bicton will know whether it can continue to forge its association with Exeter College or whether it needs to look for support elsewhere.

    With projected costs of £11 million to close the college down, Bicton insists this not an option:

    “Closure is the least cost effective option and unlikely to occur.”

    Bicton have attributed their financial problems to operational losses, stating that it has found it difficult to operate without the economies of scale that benefit larger colleges.

    Devon’s other agricultural college, Seale-Hayne, closed in 2005.

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