UNION chiefs agreed this week to set up two new staff bodies, based separately in higher and further education and joined together in a federation.
The agreement, made by representatives of the Association of University Teachers and of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, follows years of wrangling.
It endorses the findings of a review carried out by Bill McCall, independent chair of the negotiations, but is still to be ratified by Natfhe's executive in October.
Decisions still have to be taken about whether the unions will have new names and/or general secretaries and how the federation will be made effective and durable.
David Triesman, general secretary of the AUT, said: "This is a rational way forward."
Paul Mackney, Natfhe general secretary, said: "If we can build up a sufficient level of trust between the two organisations then we would expect endorsement."
Pressure has been growing for a new relationship between the AUT and Natfhe since the ending of the binary line in 1992. The AUT wanted two separate unions, one for higher education and one for further education. Natfhe preferred a single union.
Mr McCall would like to see a "straightforward amalgamation" between the AUT and Natfhe but recognises that this would take time.