Quality concerns could scupper plans for Bradford 'multiversity'

February 7, 2003

Plans to create the UK's first "multiversity" through a merger of Bradford University and Bradford College have been called into question by funding council officials, writes Tony Tysome.

The Learning and Skills Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England have asked former colleges chief inspector Terry Melia to investigate the proposals.

They want more information about how a merged institution would operate and standards safeguarded.

Dr Melia's conclusions, expected before the end of the month, will influence the councils' recommendations to the secretary of state.

The institutions hope to unite to create a "comprehensive" university to deliver courses from lower level further education through to postgraduate programmes. But West Yorkshire LSC is not convinced that a merged body would give adequate weight to developing and enhancing lower level provision.

Gary Rae, executive manager for corporate affairs at the LSC, said he was concerned that a merger would lead to mission drift.

He said: "This will be the first institution of its kind. We want to ensure we get it right. Lower level work is important for an area such as Bradford, which has a lower level of attainment than the national average.

We have to ask how we can deliver that alongside postgraduate work."

The LSC also wants reassurance, after the Quality Assurance Agency rejected Bradford College's appeal against its poor assessment last year.

In a joint statement, the institutions said they were "energetically and enthusiastically beginning the public consultation phase to reassure funders and stakeholders" of their plans.

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