Southampton Institute of Higher Education, one of the largest colleges in the sector, made a bid for university status this week. In a document launched in London, the institute proposed that all higher education institutions with more than 500 full-time students should automatically become universities.
This would involve dropping the link between university status and the achievement of research degree awarding powers, and the granting of the university college title to all institutions funded by the Higher Education Funding Council.
The Standing Conference of Principals, the body for higher education colleges, is expected to meet Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, with new criteria which are unlikely to embody these requirements. A meeting between Mrs Shephard and the Committee for Vice Chancellors and Principals on the subject has been postponed until mid-July.
Southampton, with 13,000 full and part-time students, says that automatic designation as a university would be a recognition of the important contributions such institutions make to the nation.
"The requirement for research degree awarding qualifications should be dropped on the grounds that is unnecessary, inefficient and inequitable. We believe that research resources should be allocated on the basis of appropriate expertise and 'magnets' of funding to about 15 or 20 internationally recognised centres of research excellence in science. In other subjects research funding should be more diffuse," the college says.