Another bidder for the Overseas Development Administration's research arm has fallen by the wayside. Cranfield University has pulled out of the competition to buy the Natural Resources Institute, to leave only two contenders.
The two vying to run the institute in Kent, which helps developing countries to manage renewable resources are a consortium of Edinburgh and Greenwich universities, Imperial College and Wye College, both part of London University; and Serco International in association with the University of Wales.
Since the ODA announced that it wanted to privatise its research organisation, a number of universities have pulled out of the bidding, including Reading and Warwick. One of the main reasons was the ODA's decision to shift the institute's focus from pure research to consultancy. At the same time the administration cut 140 staff.
Cranfield is refusing to say why it did not pursue its bid. "We thought we were a perfect fit," said Revel Barker, director of public affairs. "But we didn't feel the deal was right for us at the time. However, we are still interested."
If the two remaining bidders dropped out, Cranfield would be back in the running, said Mr Barker. "But we would want different terms, a better arrangement."
The Edinburgh/Greenwich/London consortium has said it would set up a joint venture company called NRInternational, if its bid won.