Leader: Welcome to the club

August 5, 2005

The six latest entrants to Britain's university club make their debut at a time of massive change and no small anxiety for the higher education sector - whether it is the uncertainty surrounding the competitive market for students from 2006, when top-up fees are introduced, or the preparations for the 2008 research assessment exercise.

Some of the newest of the new universities are setting their sights high, hoping to emulate the growth in stature of the likes of York and Warwick universities over the past 40 years. Others have yet to decide whether to seek research degree-awarding powers.

What is abundantly clear is that the higher education landscape of 2005 is far different from that of the 1960s, and different again from the higher education scene in 1992 - it is both more competitive and unforgiving.

Regardless of new or old or of the span of decades their institution has existed, many vice-chancellors no doubt harbour private worries about the decisions they have made about fees and bursaries for 2006. If closures are unlikely, will there be moves towards mergers by the end of the decade?

Nonetheless, the award of university title to those six institutions is well deserved and their aspirations are welcome. Only time will tell whether they will achieve their goals.

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