TWO colleges could be merged this summer in a massive shake-up of further education in Halton.
Plans are in place to amalgamate Widnes & Runcorn Sixth Form College and Halton College to create a single institution providing improved academic and vocational programmes for 3,000 16 to 19-year-olds.
Under the proposals put forward for public consultation by the Learning and Skills Council Greater Merseyside (LSC), the new college would continue to operate on the existing campuses.
An LSC spokesman said: 'Following a review of post-16 education provision in Halton, the boards of governors of both Widnes & Runcorn Sixth Form College and Halton College decided that the best interests of the young people of Halton may be best served by amalgamating the two institutions to create a new and exciting college able to provide the highest levels of tuition in an environment suited to 21st Century learning.
'They have now begun the process of statutory consultation to ascertain the views of all interested parties.'
In a unified statement, Halton College chief executive Alan Harrison and Widnes & Runcorn Sixth Form College acting principal David Jones say the new institution will be a 'synthesis of the best characteristics of the existing colleges with sufficient critical mass to be significant in the strategic development of Halton Borough and its environs.'
Mr Jones said: 'The colleges have a recent history of collaboration in Runcorn and if a new college is created then this will provide the opportunity to extend that approach to the benefit of all learners.'
The new college - provisionally titled Runcorn & Widnes College - will employ approximately 525 staff, both full and part-time.
According to the consultation document, the amalgamated college will have an estimated turnover of £18.8m in its first year and fixed assets of £18.7m.
The college will seek to provide what the document terms an 'identifiable 16-19 ethos for Halton'.
This will encompass distinct academic sixth form and vocational elements.
Widnes & Runcorn Sixth Form College currently operates from two sites, one in Cronton Lane, Widnes, and another in Percival Lane, Runcorn, which opened in 2002.
Halton College has campuses at Kingsway in Widnes and Campus Drive in Runcorn.
At the moment, there are an estimated 1,620 full-time students between the ages of 16 and 19 at Halton College.
A total of 1,220 16-19-year-old study full-time at Widnes & Runcorn Sixth Form College, with the majority taking A-level or NVQ Level 3 courses.
The public consultation on the proposed amalgamation ends on March 15.