Nottingham University's faculty of medicine and health sciences has taken on 1,800 new nursing students and more than Pounds 12 million of contracts after merging with the Mid-Trent College of Nursing and Midwifery.
The nursing college is next to the medical faculty at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham and the two have had close links in the past. The college was affiliated to the university, but will now become a fully integrated part of the faculty and be called the school of nursing and midwifery studies.
The faculty and college have been talking about merger for two years. The college's training contracts with Trent Regional Health Authority, worth more than Pounds 12 million, will continue. The merger is in line with a national policy of integrating nursing colleges with university medical faculties. Other older universities, including Sheffield and London, are also absorbing nursing training.
New universities, such as De Montfort in Leicester and Northumbria in Newcastle, are also assuming the role, but they have been more involved with nursing training in the past. Berkshire College of Nursing and Midwifery was recently officially integrated into Thames Valley University.
Thames Valley's Wolfson School of Health Science, which already holds the contract for nursing education and training in the North Thames Regional Health Authority area, merged with Berkshire College under a contract from Oxford and Anglia Regional Health Authority, worth Pounds 4.8 million annually for five years.
These changes are part of more sweeping reforms in nursing training. From next year, regional health authorities will no longer be the purchasers of nursing training provision. Instead this will fall to a consortium of employers, including NHS trusts, the independent sector and GP fundholders.
"Achieving the full integration of the education of all healthcare professionals, building on the strengths of Nottingham's medical school and the school of physiotherapy, will have great benefits for the standard of health care in the region," said Malcolm Symonds, the dean of the medical faculty.
The nursing school has centres in Mansfield, Derby, Lincoln and Boston, as well as Nottingham. Accommodation for students exists at the centres. The university already validated courses provided by Mid-Trent College, and diploma students who passed through the college received Nottingham University certificates.
However, the university's medical faculty already had a small nursing and midwifery department and faces a particular problem in trying to integrate it with Mid-Trent College. The department provided bachelor of honours degrees in nursing while Mid-Trent just provided diplomas.
Professor Symonds said: "The merger does involve mixing two types of ethic: an academic one and a teaching or training one. At first, we will run the degree and diploma courses alongside each other, but in the longer term I expect more and more students to take the degree course."
"There is also a more general problem - the standards of a medical faculty are very different from those of a nursing school. They will have to be matched up to some extent."
* Rather than follow the piecemeal approach adopted in England, Scotland is shifting all nursing education from National Health Service management into tertiary education in a single move, with the results of competitive tendering expected in September, writes Olga Wojtas.
The largest and smallest of the 12 free-standing nursing colleges, respectively Lothian College of Health Studies and the Scottish Borders College of Nursing, which will come together under a single contract, have united to welcome the move.
Patricia Peattie, principal of Lothian College, said: "The move into tertiary education acknowledges the reality that nursing and midwifery education provides an intellectual as well as vocational training."
Additional reporting by Olga Wojtas.