The University of Hertfordshire is discussing possible mergers with two further education colleges, weeks after a similar three-way merger plan in Derby collapsed at the eleventh hour.
Talks are well advanced with Dunstable College in Bedfordshire, where the university plans to provide a new learning resources centre and expand courses in leisure and media. Governors from both institutions have agreed in principle to merge in the summer. This would be one of the first mergers between a university and general further education institution.
The governors are waiting for the Further Education Funding Council to approve the move. More talks over a possible merger are taking place with North Hertfordshire College. A decision is likely in February.
Plans for a merger between Derby University and two neighbouring general further education colleges collapsed last month after Mackworth College backed out while awaiting final ministerial approval. A merger with the other college, High Peak, in Buxton, may still proceed.
Roger Gochin, principal of North Hertfordshire College, said: "We are conducting a feasibility study with the university to see whether a merger is desirable and practicable. We have been talking to one another for a number of years about how collaboration may be improved." He said the talks had become more serious after the Dearing, Kennedy and Fryer reports, which seemed to support more collaboration between higher and further education.
Thomas Hanahoe, the university's pro-vice chancellor, said: "There are very strong positive signals from the government and elsewhere that the relationship between the further and higher education sectors needs to change."
An FEFC spokesman said: "We have just received a formal proposal from Dunstable College, and it will be considered by the regional committee at its meeting in January. As yet, we have not received any formal proposal from North Hertfordshire."