Leeds Metropolitan University has succeeded in persuading a previously sceptical Further Education Funding Council that it should be allowed to merge with Harrogate College.
The university said approval has been gained at both regional and national level, subject to a public consultation, which takes place over the next month. The education secretary must then give the go ahead, a decision is expected in the summer.
The FEFC had rejected earlier proposals citing concerns about how the merged institution would provide access for under-represented groups in the region. It was also anxious about retaining the distinctive character of the college.
Harrogate decided to approach LMU when it realised its existence as an independent institution was becoming increasingly precarious. LMU vice-chancellor Leslie Wagner said his mission was to create a "university of applied education" and stressed that further education provision would be strengthened by the merger. In addition, the university would develop higher education in Harrogate and the surrounding area. The college recruits from a 750 square mile area in North Yorkshire.
A series of induction events are being planned; staff from the college will visit the university's Beckett park campus to hear about the workings of the university. And university staff will look around the college.
The proposed merger date is August 1998 when the college will be integrated into the governance and management structure of the university.
However, LMU stresses that the college will continue as a separate organisational and academic unit similar to one of the university's existing faculties.
Lecturers' union Natfhe said it was concerned to ensure that college lecturers were not expected to do higher education work on further education terms, which meant lower salaries and much longer teaching hours.
The FEFC has already recommended the merger of High Peak College and Derby University and is beginning consultations on a proposal to merge Nottingham Trent University with nearby Brackenhurst College.