LETTERS : University by any other name

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It was interesting to see that the confusing state of affairs regarding the titles of colleges and institutions of higher education has been taken up with the Secretary of State as Fran Abrams reports ("Dons angry as colleges get above themselves"

, 18 December).

One point which was unfortunately reported incorrectly may have confused readers: that degrees may only be awarded by universities. Provision has been made for other institutions, after following a rigorous process, to be given the power to award degrees, Bath College of Higher Education to name but one.

Seeking university status itself is also governed by a rigorous process. One of the causes behind the attempt to clarify what titles may be used is that the current range of titles does not have the same carefully established rules. An existing university may establish a tiny outpost consisting of its own staff and call it a university college, but an institution with 150 years' experience of higher education which may have more students than many universities ever had, cannot. These established colleges also undertake all the activities that are expected of a university - research and teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Some institutions may wish to move to award their own degrees and even to become universities, but many do not. It seems all they want is a correct description of their activities as they already do as much as many of those universities who want to exclude them from the market.

Mike Ratcliffe Hornchurch, Essex

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