Nineteen art and design colleges joined forces this week to form an association to promote themselves at home and abroad.
The United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association was launched on Monday as a sub-group of the Standing Conference of Principals, which represents higher education colleges. Ukadia plans to highlight the contributions of specialist colleges to the UK's worldwide reputation in the visual arts and industries.
With many big mergers under consideration in higher and further education, Ukadia hopes to underline the importance of maintaining specialist provision to meet the requirements of industry and individual students.
Sir Christopher Frayling, rector of the Royal College of Art and a member of Ukadia, said the association would help small colleges get their voices heard and not be drowned out by the bigger players.
"We do not want to be seen as a pimple on the bottom of higher education but rather as a greater part of the anatomy," Sir Christopher said.
"These specialist colleges are an essential part of the diverse landscape of higher education and they should be making much more noise about it. Ukadia will provide a platform for this."
Vaughan Grylls, Ukadia convenor and director of the Kent Institute of Art and Design, said: "The UK is recognised throughout the world for the quality of its visual arts and industries. The specialist colleges have been, and continue to be, prime movers in making this happen."
John Hall, chairman of Eversheds Education Group, which is sponsoring the association, said: "It is important that we continue to promote the fantastic facilities this country's art and design institutions possess."