Croydon College has become a college of the University of Sussex in a move which reflects the blurring of traditionally rigid boundaries between further and higher education.
Croydon, which offers eight degree courses and seven HNDs, was wooed by several local universities for the right to validate its courses. Vice principal Lynne Sedgmore said formalising one university link was part of the college's HE strategy.
In other regions universities are starting to offer associate college status to local colleges which could eventually transform them into university colleges.
Keith Short, pro vice chancellor at Nottingham Trent University, said post-18 education could be simplified if links between FE and HE evolved into university colleges following the US "junior college" model.
"We await the discussions with the secretary of state to clarify the use of the title 'university college' as this may have implications for the associate colleges of the university," he said.
NTU has seven associate colleges and Professor Short stresses the importance of retaining the FE colleges' autonomy.
Enthusiasm for formal links between universities and FE colleges is becoming widespead. In Humberside, a region with a relatively poor take-up rate for higher education, Hull University is trying to improve local student recruitment by offering associate college status to nearby FE colleges with the aim of forming a regional network.
Acting academic registrar Derek Newham said four local colleges had been granted the new status which formalised existing links. The intention was to create pathways from schools to colleges to the university to encourage more students to make the progression.
Local recruitment was increasingly important for "older" universities, Mr Newham said. The closer links with colleges could include offering a foundation year at the college leading to a university degree programme.
Within the framework particular initiatives such as validation and franchising arrangements will be encouraged alongside the development of curriculum links, joint marketing and staff development. But Mr Newham said that each link was different: "There must be something in the relationship for both parties," he said.