One of further education's biggest institutions will be created next year under new proposals to merge three colleges in Derby.
Funding chiefs say the move reflects a trend towards the development of "super colleges" and centres of excellence as mergers and collaborative networks become increasingly common.
Derby Tertiary College, Mackworth College and Broomfield College will merge to create Derby College. The new institution will have about 28,000 students, 800 staff and an annual budget of more than Pounds 30 million.
If the scheme is given the go-ahead after a month of public consultation, managers and governors of the three colleges hope to have the new institution operational by April - when a new funding and inspection regime for post-16 education and training will come into force.
David Croll, principal of Derby Tertiary College, which has led the merger proposals, said curriculum changes and financial pressures had made the move attractive, while the timing had been influenced by the replacement of the Further Education Funding Council with learning and skills councils next year.
He said: "Many college principals are worried about what will happen to institutional independence under the LSCs. I think it is going to be important to have strong colleges working alongside the LSC executive directors in identifying strategic targets."
Mr Croll said that although there had been failed attempts to merge with the University of Derby, the new college would be working with the university's access network, rather than offering its own higher education courses.
FEFC figures show that the number of mergers has risen from two in 1993, the year after incorporation, to nine last year and eight so far this year. Bids for up to nine have been registered for next year.