The boards of the Equality Challenge Unit, Higher Education Academy and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education have agreed that the organisations should merge to form a new, as-yet-unnamed agency.
The UK-based agencies agreed to unite after a report, published in at the start of the year, recommended they do so.
The chair-designate of the new agency, Nigel Carrington, said that it would provide a “unified and focused offer” for universities.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that although there was commitment to the merger. it would not make it less challenging.
A review of the agencies in UK higher education by Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, commissioned by Universities UK and GuildHE, was published in January 2017.
It recommended that the three organisations merge to create a “new, more responsive and holistic sector agency”. The new entity will support universities on equality and diversity, learning and teaching, and leadership and governance.
The three agencies have already created several joint working groups to support the merger. Universities UK said that there will now be a three-month consultation period with universities about the changes and the submission of documentation to the Charity Commission.
The structures for the new agency will be in place for 1 August 2018, which is in line with the recommendations of the Bell Review.
Mr Carrington, who is also vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London, said that he was “delighted” that the boards of the three agencies had come to this decision.
“There’s a great array of talent and expertise in all three agencies, and I really look forward to working with those staff, combining their commitment and passion for higher education under one unified and focused offer,” he said.
Mr Hillman said: “Everybody is committed to the principal of merging these three organisations but such mergers are always challenging particularly when you have got organisations of different sizes coming together."
"I think everybody wants the new organisation to succeed but there is a long distance to travel between where we are and where we need to be,” he added.
Alison Johns, chief executive of the LFHE, was announced as the chief executive of the new agency in September.
She said: “We now have an exciting opportunity to define and shape the new organisation so that it works with and for the sector, supporting it to deliver an exceptional experience for students, subscribers, members and stakeholders.
“The consultation period will be vital to this process, building a clear understanding of needs in a diverse and layered sector. There’s a great array of talent and expertise in all three agencies, and I really look forward to working with those staff, combining their commitment and passion for higher education under one unified and focused offer.”