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Newton Rigg Review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Updated 18 December 2020

This FAQ page provides information about the Newton Rigg Review and the more recent Newton Rigg Strategic Review.

Please scroll further down to read about the latest developments concerning the Newton Rigg Strategic Review.

If you have any further questions, please email


What is the Newton Rigg Review?

Askham Bryan College’s governing body asked the Further Education Commissioner, an advisor based at the Department for Education, to lead an independent review of educational provision at Newton Rigg Campus in Penrith.

The review explored educational provision at Newton Rigg and across the wider region. Regional organisations that support education and the economy, and other stakeholders, in Cumbria have been involved in the Newton Rigg Review.

What was the aim of the review?

The review sought to analyse educational provision at Newton Rigg and across Cumbria, to establish whether there is a need for college provision in the general location of the campus and, if so, how this could be best delivered in the future.

The review was completed in May 2020 and the FE Commissioner provided a report of the findings to Askham Bryan College’s governing body so that it could make informed and evidence-based decisions about future provision offered at Newton Rigg Campus.

What has Askham Bryan College’s governing body decided following the review?

After a very careful consideration of the findings, the College’s governing body decided in principle, on May 21st 2020, to close Newton Rigg in July 2021.  This decision, in principle, was subject to the outcome of a minimum 45 day statutory consultation process with staff and the recognised trade unions, which started on May 21st 2020. 

The governing body has now made its final decision, on whether the campus will close or not next summer, following the conclusion of the statutory consultation process. 

Askham Bryan College will not deliver educational provision from its Newton Rigg site beyond July 2021.

The final decision was made on July 20th 2020.  These decisions were very difficult ones for the governing body to make and Askham Bryan College will do everything it can to support students and staff affected.

What does this final decision mean for students and applicants?

All courses and student recruitment are continuing for this academic year 2020/21.

This final decision means that Askham Bryan College will not deliver education provision from its Newton Rigg site beyond July 2021. The College is continuing to offer courses at Newton Rigg Campus for this academic year only - September 2020 until July 2021.

Is the rest of Askham Bryan College affected?

This final decision only affects Newton Rigg Campus in Penrith, Cumbria. Askham Bryan College has six campuses in total at York, Newton Rigg (Penrith), Middlesbrough, Saltaire, Newcastle-Gateshead and Wakefield.

How many learners are studying at Newton Rigg currently?

This academic year, 2020/21, there are 536 learners based at Newton Rigg comprising 440 further education students and 96 apprentices.

During the last academic year, 2019/20, there were around 888 learners based at Newton Rigg comprising 667 further education students and 221 apprentices.

What courses are offered there?

Courses currently provided include agriculture, gamekeeping, animal and equine management, forestry, horticulture and agricultural engineering.  The campus also offers general further education courses such as uniformed public services, sport, hairdressing and beauty therapy, childhood studies and health and social care.

Are courses continuing at Newton Rigg this academic year 2020/21?

Yes, courses are continuing for this academic year 2020/21 as planned.

When will Newton Rigg close?

Askham Bryan College will not deliver educational provision from its Newton Rigg site beyond July 2021.  The College regrets the prospect of future job losses and understands the strength of feeling about Newton Rigg; the College will do all it can to support staff and students at this difficult time.

Why has this decision been taken?

Newton Rigg is not financially viable from the College’s perspective and would require ongoing investment to keep pace with industry skills.  The review identified the following challenges:

• Demographic challenges: The College faces low population density in the rural location of Cumbria, and future low demographic growth of 16 to 18-year-olds.

• Student recruitment: Over the longer term, this is falling with insufficient local demand for specialist land-based provision, compounded by the declining demographics.

• Financial losses: As a result of the above factors, Newton Rigg has an annual operating deficit of around £1 million and lacks a sustainable business model due to declining student numbers and demographics.

• Estates reinvestment: In order to keep pace with the latest land based sector skills needs, the estate needs around £20 million capital investment.

Given the current economic climate, and the fact that no capital or revenue funding is available, the College has no other option but to propose closing the facility in July 2021. 

Ultimately, it’s in the best interests of Cumbrian learners to attend a thriving college campus. The review has indicated the size of the challenge to achieve this at Newton Rigg.

When did the College inform students, and parents and carers?

Askham Bryan College has kept stakeholders updated on developments. This has included emailing students, apprentices, parents and carers, and applicants on:

· July 21st 2020 informing them of the governing body's final decision

· May 21st 2020, informing them of the governing body's in principle decision

Prior to that, the College emailed students, parents and carers, and applicants, informing them of the Newton Rigg Review before it commenced in February 2020.

Students have also been updated of the conclusion of the Strategic Review as presented to Corporation by the Newton Rigg Strategic Review Steering Group on December 17th 2020.

What will happen to the staff at Newton Rigg?

There are 117 staff who have been involved in the 45 day formal consultation process, which has concluded. Teaching will continue until July 2021. The College regrets the prospect of future job losses once the Newton Rigg Campus closes.

What will happen to Newton Rigg students?

Some students have finished their studies in July 2020. Those learners who have wanted to progress and complete the next academic year 2020/21 have been able to do so as planned.

The College is in positive discussions with other education providers across the region to ensure that progression opportunities beyond July 2021 are available for Cumbrian students. Students have been offered support if they wish to explore changing their options.

What will happen to apprenticeships?

We will explore an alternative location for the ‘off the job’ training element based in Cumbria.

What happened to Newton Rigg applicants for September 2020/21?

Applications were accepted as usual for the next academic year 2020/21. The College wrote to applicants informing them of the latest developments and outlined individual options specific to the course they applied for. 

Applicants were offered support if they wished to explore changing their options. If applicants had planned on continuing to study at Newton Rigg Campus beyond the 2020/21 academic year, we explained that this would not be possible given that a final decision has been taken to close the campus in July 2021.

For courses, where the same provision is offered at Askham Bryan College’s York campus, learners were advised on progression to further study subject to a successful interview and place availability. Learners were also advised on other options available at other colleges regionally.

Has any action been taken to save Newton Rigg from closure in July 2021?

During discussions with various groups from Cumbria over the past few months, there has been a high level of support expressed for Newton Rigg from various Cumbrian organisations and groups.

Since the College’s governing body announced in May 2020 that it had taken the difficult decision, in principle, to stop delivering education and training at Newton Rigg from July 2021, a small number of interested parties approached the College with proposals for the future use of the site.

As a result, the Further Education Commissioner (FEC), Education and Skills Funding Agency, (ESFA), Askham Bryan College and Eden District Council have been working together as part of a Newton Rigg Strategic Review Steering Group receiving proposals so that the merits of each one could be fully explored. That process has now concluded.

How was the Strategic Review different to the previous Newton Rigg Review?

The Strategic Review, which began in June 2020 when the Steering Group was formed, has explored options for finding a potential new owner for the site.

The objectives and criteria set by the Steering Group were to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested parties to fund and deliver detailed business plan and proposals for the Newton Rigg site.

Who has coordinated the Newton Rigg Strategic Review?

The Further Education Commissioner (FEC) team, led by a land-based specialist has coordinated the Newton Rigg Strategic Review in conjunction with Askham Bryan College and officials from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Eden District Council.

What were the objectives of the Newton Rigg Strategic Review?

The objectives of the strategic review were to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested party to fund and deliver their detailed business plan and proposals to take on Newton Rigg Campus so that it can continue to deliver high quality further education for the local area.

Has the Newton Rigg Strategic Review been completed?

The Strategic Review has now concluded its work. Askham Bryan College’s governing body has been informed, on December 17th, 2020, that neither of the bidding parties were able to meet the expectations and criteria set by the Strategic Review, in order to secure the long-term success of a potential new college or provider for students in the future.

Therefore, the Strategic Review’s recommendation to Askham Bryan College’s governing body was that it should not accept either bid, and that it should subsequently proceed with plans for closure of the Newton Rigg site by July 2021.

Askham Bryan College's governing body has accepted the Strategic Review and its recommendations.

The College had hoped that the process would conclude in the Strategic Review Steering Group receiving a successful submission and understands the sense of disappointment that staff, students and stakeholders will feel.

The College has worked in full cooperation with the Strategic Review and has shared detailed information with all interested parties and key stakeholders. The College is very disappointed that a comprehensive sustainable option for Newton Rigg has not been found.

How many bids were received?

The Strategic Review received initial expressions of interest from a number of parties at the end of August 2020 and has subsequently been working with two main parties over the last few months in order to complete the second stage of the process of submitting detailed business plans.

In order to give the process and parties the best chance for success, the FEC and officials from Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have also hosted additional workshops on meeting the criteria for success, including briefings on further education funding and finance.

The FEC team has worked closely with the College, the ESFA and stakeholders to conduct a thorough and comprehensive Strategic Review.

Is there any further update from the conclusion of the Strategic Review?

The FEC and ESFA have proposed, to Askham Bryan College's governing body, that they will work with local MP Dr Neil Hudson, Eden District Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and other stakeholders to establish whether they can secure some form of reduced, alternative educational delivery based at the Newton Rigg site, likely to be focussed on land based education.

This process will be time limited, concluding early in the New Year, and discussions will focus on whether parties can demonstrate that they are able to purchase a reduced part of the Newton Rigg campus, and deliver a sustainable land based educational solution.

These discussions will take place alongside Askham Bryan College proceeding to find a buyer or multiple buyers for elements of its Newton Rigg site.

Askham Bryan College purchased Newton Rigg Campus in 2011. Since then, the College has invested considerable funds and absorbed financial losses. Given that the College is an exempt charity the governors, as trustees, have a legal obligation to secure the best outcome for the charity.

Does the Newton Rigg Strategic Review affect Askham Bryan College governing body’s final decision?

No. The final decision by the governing body to close Newton Rigg Campus remains in place, and means Askham Bryan College will not be providing educational provision beyond July 2021. The Newton Rigg Strategic Review has been a separate, formal process.

Has there been a public consultation about Newton Rigg Campus?

No. The formal, statutory consultation process that began on May 21st 2020 and has concluded, involved staff and the recognised trade unions.  We have also discussed the challenges the College has faced with key stakeholders in the region.

Why did you decide to close the campus in summer 2021 rather than summer 2020?

Closing the campus in July 2021 enables students who have started courses with us to progress and complete an additional academic year. It also enables a transition period and time for staff to prepare for the future.

The College’s governing body were clear that they wanted to delay a closure for one academic year, despite having an option to close by September 2020, to protect the best interest of students over this academic year.

Has the College considered any other options?

The College has explored other options, including fully cooperating with the Newton Rigg Strategic Review, but none so far can address the issue that the campus is not financially viable and would need significant long-term investment in future.  

Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277