Six higher education colleges are given full university status

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The Independent Online

Six higher education colleges are to achieve full university status in the biggest expansion of the sector since the polytechnics became universities in 1992. The university colleges of Bath Spa, Canterbury Christchurch, Southampton Institute, Liverpool Hope, Chester and Winchester all had confirmation from the Government that, subject to formal approval by the Privy Council, they had successfully won university status.

Six higher education colleges are to achieve full university status in the biggest expansion of the sector since the polytechnics became universities in 1992. The university colleges of Bath Spa, Canterbury Christchurch, Southampton Institute, Liverpool Hope, Chester and Winchester all had confirmation from the Government that, subject to formal approval by the Privy Council, they had successfully won university status.

The decision could reopen the row over the Government's deliberate policy of expanding the university sector to include institutions that offered only teaching rather than research.

The massive expansion of the university sector follows 2003's White Paper on higher education to allow teaching-only institutions to win university status. Before, institutions could become universities only if they also offered research degrees such as MPhils and PhDs. Critics of the new rules had accused the Government of trying to create an "artificial divide" between teaching and research.

Three other higher education colleges, Worcester, Chichester and Buckingham Chilterns had applied for university status but are still in discussions with the Quality Assurance Agency, the body which assesses whether they have met the Government's criteria. The six institutions which won approval yesterday said the decision meant they could compete more effectively for students. Professor Roger Brown, principal of Southampton Institute said: "We are elated. Being able to call ourselves a university will add very important recognition for our staff and their knowledge and involvement at the forefront of their subject." The institution may call itself Southampton Solent University.

Professor Paul Light, principal of University College Winchester, which hopes to call itself the University of Winchester, said: "This is a ringing endorsement of University College Winchester's standing as an excellent provider of university education, underpinned by strong research and professional engagement. The quality of our academic staff and our support staff is a key factor in our success. So too is the high proportion of students who complete their studies successfully."

Canterbury Christchurch's principal, Professor Michael Wright, said: "This is a very proud day for Canterbury Christchurch and I am delighted. This recognises the achievements of staff and students. Our students will now have their efforts recognised by being awarded a degree from a full university.

Professor David Timms, assistant director of Bath Spa University College, which hopes to become Bath Spa University, said: "Being called university instead of university college will give proper credit to our strengths, and will make clear to students ...and businesses that we are of equal standing with other university institutions."

Professor Tim Wheeler, principal of University College Chester said: "This is a most exciting chapter in the 166-year history of the college. It recognises the achievements of staff, students and the governing body in pursuing the case for university status."

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