FURTHER education students will be able to study for associate degrees from a United States university as part of a unique merger between two Birmingham colleges.
East Birmingham and Handsworth colleges announced this week that they are to merge from August 1998 and that students from either institution will be able to gain associate degrees from the University of Chicago.
The two colleges are basing the merged City of Birmingham College System on the US urban college model. The merged system will cater for some 30,000 students and the colleges are offering other institutions the chance to join the initiative before September 30.
East Birmingham principal Tony Henry said that the merger would result in four distinct colleges. East Birmingham and Handsworth would retain their titles and a degree of separate identity while two new colleges, Birmingham Technical College and the Open College, would be created.
Mr Henry said: "We believe this to be the first merger between two highly successful colleges."
He said that a great deal of money was wasted on competition between the 12 Birmingham colleges. The merger would produce savings on administrative and marketing costs, while students would benefit from expanded course choice.
The associate degrees will be run as a pilot project from September, supported by the University of Central England. Degrees in engineering, social sciences and business studies will be offered.
Students would be expected to pay fees of about Pounds 600 and would spend 12 weeks in Chicago. It is hoped that the scheme will be expanded to other disciplines and that the associate degrees will allow them to enter UCE as second-year students.