College bid mayset ball rolling

February 1, 2002

University College Worcester may be leading a new wave of bids for full university status from higher education colleges.

Encouraged by the creation of the University of Gloucestershire, and buoyed by a strategic alliance with Birmingham University, Worcester's governors have approved proposals to apply for the university title.

Other colleges such as Bolton Institute, which has come close to gaining university status in the past, are expected to follow suit. Those that decide to apply will have to satisfy tough criteria introduced by ministers to try to deter small teaching institutions.

Worcester's principal, Dorma Irwin, is optimistic about the prospects, though she admitted her own college - which already has taught degree-awarding powers - fell into the category of a small teaching institution.

She said: "The Gloucestershire decision showed that if the case is made, there can be more universities. We will be talking to the Quality Assurance Agency to try to establish what sort of approach they are taking. It does not seem to us that there is a decision that there can be no more universities."

Worcester hopes to strengthen its research capability through a partnership with Birmingham University, to be signed and sealed next month. Ms Irwin said the partnership would "not involve any organisational change" but would mean a "sensible trade-off" allowing Birmingham to extend its teaching activities into Hereford and Worcester to work on research projects in collaboration with Birmingham.

Other colleges are looking at their chances of putting in an application for university status. Bolton Institute principal Molly Temple said the prospect of a fresh bid was "a live issue".

Roger Brown, principal of Southampton Institute, which is being assessed for degree-awarding powers, said the qualifying rules meant full university status had to be viewed as a long-term goal.

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