Bates Wells Braithwaite are brilliant. Very efficient and assertive, a really good firm and professional, with a high level of expertise."
Chambers UK 2015

Having advised FE clients ever since delegation in 1992, we understand that each college has particular needs requiring them to adapt to changing circumstances in an increasingly challenging environment, where the social need that is expected to be met by colleges is in direct contrast with the reduced funding available for them to do so. We support colleges with creating efficiencies, improving outcomes and finding innovative ways to generate additional income.

We can help FE colleges to meet these challenges by providing clear advice and bespoke solutions to their issues, rather than more of the “one size fits all” approach that is offered by some providers. Our clients see us as forward-looking and “outcome-oriented”.

In light of the 'Area Reviews' we are currently engaged in a number of merger transactions and are able to draw on not only our experience of acting for colleges but for multi-academy trusts, academies and not-for-profit and other quasi-public sector organisations. We have led the field in creating and acting for social enterprises which are increasingly how the government sees FE Colleges.

We are also leading advisors to HE and FE institutions on structures, governance, mergers, federation and shared service agreements, as well as in the fields of employment, immigration and property. 

We provide a comprehensive and coordinated range of legal services and focused advice on particular matters. A list of the practice areas on which we are regularly consulted is given below.

We have particular expertise in the specific employment issues that FE and HE institutions face, covering all aspects of terms & conditions, policies & practices, staffing and student issues, union negotiations, TUPE management and disciplinary procedures. We regularly host a Principals’ Forum for the FE sector.

Similarly, our Immigration team is expert in the particular requirements of FE and HE institutions, including UKBA compliance and immigration of students and staff members. We can provide UKBA audit advice and sponsorship advice, and can conduct mock compliance visits.

One of our areas of interest is the partnership work we have engaged with on the development of social enterprises within universities, the development of social businesses by universities and innovative funding mechanisms, such as the social impact bond.

Legal services for HE and FE providers

Our multidisciplinary team has lawyers with expertise in all of our practice areas. We can advise on:

  • Collaborations, federations, joint ventures and shared services
  • Mergers – type A and B, and governance structures (statutory or otherwise)
  • Charity law and requirements for exempt charities
  • Commercial contracts, including financing and loan agreements and contract disputes
  • Consultation requirements
  • Employment and HR, including help with contracts, policies and procedures
  • Equality obligations
  • Governance, including consultancy through our ‘OnBoard ‘ service
  • Intellectual Property : protection and exploitation
  • Information law including data protection and FOI
  • Real estate, including development and construction projects
  • Public procurement requirements
  • Regulatory law, including health & safety and safeguarding
  • Social Enterprise, Social Finance and social investment
  • Student matters, including discipline, disputes
  • Student unions

Please contact us for more information or an initial conversation on how we can work with your institution.


We provide expert Employment training for FE and HE institutions, either through general seminars or bespoke training sessions. Learn more here.
Practical Employment Training Services >

Setting up as a Social Enterprise
The Get Legal website provides guidance on establishing a social enterprise.
Get Legal >


  • BWB appointed to advise on federation agreement - Bromley/Greenwich
  • BWB appointed on possible merger – City & Islington/Westminster Kingsway