A PLANNED merger between the University of Hertfordshire and Dunstable College has collapsed at one of its final hurdles.
The merger, which would have been the first between a university and a general further education college, was approved in February by the eastern regional committee of the Further Education Funding Council.
But the FEFC's national committee has rejected it on the grounds that it could not see how the proposal would benefit education in Bedfordshire.
The council said: "It was concerned that this would not protect against a situation where there might be increased competition with other further education providers in Bedfordshire, which could, in turn, lead to unnecessary duplication and overlap of provision in the area."
Neil Buxton, vice-chancellor of Hertfordshire, said: "The decision had all to do with crossing county boundaries, which I consider most unfortunate, particularly when we are getting messages from government that they want higher education to take a holistic view and want further and higher education to work together."
He said that the university had promised to do what it could to support Dunstable in spite of the decision.
Barry Fyfield, principal of Dunstable College, said: "In common with the vast majority of further education institutions, we have financial difficulties. We were seeking merger as an option for the long-term future. What we are doing now is having a radical look at ourselves to maintain financial viability for next year."
He said he was confident of the college's short-term future but said Dunstable would continue to look for longer term investment through collaborations.