Bolton Institute, the unlucky loser in John Patten's 1994 moratorium on university status, has been offered a fast track to upgrading.
Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, has ruled that Bolton will be allowed to apply for university status in February 1997. Bolton, which won teaching degree status in 1992, had expected to wait until October 1998, three years after it received research degree awarding powers, the normal qualifying period.
But Mrs Shephard has recognised Bolton's ill luck in having its application delayed by the Department for Education in 1994 while her predecessor John Patten was considering the criteria for university status. The Higher Education Quality Council, which advises on degree-awarding powers, said in December 1993 that Bolton fulfilled the research criteria.
Mrs Shephard has advised the Privy Council, which awards university status, to treat Bolton as though it has held research status since February 1994. It is the only institution with both sets of degree-awarding powers that does not have university status.
The application will be considered by the Higher Education Quality Council, whose committee on degree-awarding powers will assess Bolton's record against criteria for university status. Institutions are expected to demonstrate the ability to maintain degree standards in different subject areas, and to have strategic plans which offer the prospect of standards being maintained in the future.
Bolton principal Bob Oxtoby said: "The main difference university status would make is that our competitors already have that status. The implications for Bolton's status as a town are also significant."