The future of the University of London is in doubt after King's College London announced it plans to seek its own degree-awarding powers. The move came after King's learnt of the proposed merger between Imperial College, London, and University College London.
Imperial has already applied for degree-awarding powers, which it expects to receive in the new year, some 18 months after applying for them. These powers could then be used to award degrees in a merged institution.
King's principal Arthur Lucas said: "We will be discussing the proposed Imperial-UCL merger at college council, academic board and other committees of the college in due course. As a result of these discussions, it is likely that the college will seek the power to award its own degrees, although it would be a separate decision at an appropriate time to use that power."
At present, institutions in the University of London must allow the central university to award their degrees. Any institution that has degree-awarding powers is not allowed to use them while it is a member of the university.
The three institutions have 50,000 students between them - half the population of the University of London. Furthermore, if the Imperial-UCL merger goes ahead, the new institution would seek the University of London name.
No one was available for comment at the University of London.
Professor Lucas said King's was not planning to enter the Imperial and UCL merger. He said: "If the merger is to take place, it will take some time to implement. By then, King's will have emerged as a stronger organisation through having completed the staff restructuring programme, which is a major component of our strategic plan."
Staff and student unions from Imperial and UCL have been holding joint meetings to discuss the merger plan. At one meeting, UCL provost Sir Derek Roberts told students that the School of Oriental and African Studies would be welcome to join the merger.
Dave Guppy, president of UCL Association of University Teachers, said:
"There is insufficient information to evaluate this proposal as yet. Communication and information to all members of staff on both sites is absolutely crucial. The timescale still seems to be extremely short to come to a definitive decision by December 19."