Alan Thomson reports from the Labour Party conference in Blackpool
The government used the Labour Party conference to warn universities and colleges against merger mania.
Minister Baroness Blackstone said that mergers between higher and further education institutions were not a part of the government's lifelong learning plans for seamless post-16 education.
She spoke at the launch of Learning Partnerships, a document on higher and further education collaboration by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Association of Colleges and the Association of Scottish Colleges.
The minister welcomed more collaboration but warned against drift. "I think further education is important in its own right. It should be seen as an independent and autonomous part of the post-school system rather than being sucked into our universities."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said that most proposed mergers between universities and colleges would be rejected. Guidance to this effect was sent to the funding councils in July. It said it would allow mergers only between specialist institutions and in "exceptional" cases.