Special cases can be made for a wide variety of causes in higher education - and frequently are. Strategically important science subjects have rightly had theirs recognised this week by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, but the specialist colleges represented by GuildHE are still waiting to hear their fate. Although there are some famous names among them, the colleges do not enjoy the lobbying power of the big sciences, but their case for special treatment is strong. They are popular with students and are often excellent in their field, but cannot enjoy the economies of scale that are available to big universities.
As Pamela Taylor, chairwoman of GuildHE, told the organisation's inaugural conference this week, that some would be swallowed up by larger institutions if they were not given adequate protection. The record of such mergers in preserving the distinctive strengths of the colleges is dismal. Several campuses have closed in recent years - and courses with them. The cost of helping the remaining group is a price worth paying for the high quality and diversity they bring to UK higher education.