Mills & Reeve advises Anglia Ruskin University on strategic merger

Leading national law firm Mills & Reeve has advised Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) on its merger with Writtle University College (WUC).

The strategic merger, which completed on 29 February, is a landmark event in UK Higher Education and will secure a long-term sustainable future for one of the oldest specialist institutions in the UK.

ARU, which was named The Times’ Higher Education University of the Year 2023, said it is uniquely placed to build on WUC’s reputation and vision thanks to its values and geographical proximity.

Established in 1893, WUC has expertise in agriculture, horticulture, equine and canine studies and animal management and its courses will continue to be delivered on the campus on the outskirts of Chelmsford, which will be known as ARU Writtle. This campus will also be home to the new further education college, Writtle College, which will continue the current 16-18-year-old provision and provide courses for adult learners.

Mills & Reeve corporate partner Poppy Short headed up the team advising ARU, which led ARU through the regulatory processes to transfer the higher education function of WUC to ARU and the further education provision to a wholly owned subsidiary of ARU, with designated status. Poppy and her team worked closely with the Office for Students and Department of Education and others to ensure all relevant consents were in place and the students were able to continue to receive the award they signed up to.

The multi-disciplinary education team included specialists from corporate, commercial, regulatory, finance, employment, pensions and UKVI teams. Law firm Birketts LLP provided advice and support to ARU on the property aspects of the deal. M&R and Birketts worked in collaboration to provide a seamless service to ARU in respect of the merger.

Poppy said: “The deal is a landmark development for WUC with its future now secured following the merger. Our appointment by ARU evidences our strength as market leaders in the higher education sector and highlights the team’s unrivalled expertise across all legal disciplines to advise on complex mergers and to set up new further education providers.”

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of Anglia University, said: “This is an exciting time and a significant milestone in our history. We’re delighted to have merged with Writtle University College, and together we will build on their excellent reputation and vision to achieve sustained growth in Higher and Further Education.”

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