Culture clash threatens to halt Bradford merger

July 11, 2003

The creation of Britain's first "comprehensive university" via a merger of the University of Bradford with neighbouring Bradford College could be threatened by a disagreement over the drafting of charters.

According to internal documents seen by The THES, the college's governing corporation is insisting on a totally new charter for the merged institution. But the university's senate and council fear that this will expose the venture to "difficulties and risks" and wants simply to amend its existing charter.

Neither side would comment on the deadlock this week, but the document says: "Both institutions remain committed to the vision but have different views about the best mechanism for creating an institution with a fundamentally new culture and purpose."

The merger, which aims to raise student numbers in the city by at least 20 per cent, was discussed last month with Margaret Hodge, then minister for higher education, who offered the assistance of a mediator to help resolve the disagreement. Both governing bodies are considering this.

The merger was conceived nearly two years ago as a model of collaboration and widening participation that would seamlessly integrate further and higher education. The vision is to create a modern civic university in 2004 providing the broadest range of qualifications in the sector.

Projections point to 20,000 students at the merged institution, which could be named the New University of Bradford, with an income of £100 million. It was hoped that the merger would halt the fall in student applications to the city.

After senior staff from the college and the university met last month to discuss progress, concerns about the differences in the cultures of the two institutions surfaced amid an insistence that "the culture of the new institution must be capable of delivering the full breadth of the vision".

The college corporation said it was "anxious to receive assurances" from the university council about how the culture change would be achieved.

Special meetings of the senate and the council are expected to be arranged this month in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Concern about the merger expressed by the Learning and Skills Council, which is worried about the survival of lower level qualifications, has also slowed proceedings. Feedback from the LSC and the Higher Education Funding Council for England is expected soon.

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