There are 42 higher education colleges in England, 38 of which are members of the Standing Conference of Principals (SCOP). 9% of UK students are educated in higher education colleges. Higher education colleges range in size from large multi-faculty institutions with more students than many universities, to small or specialist institutions in the areas of art and design, music and the performing arts, agriculture and teacher education. Higher education colleges share many features with universities – a broad range of taught courses; research and specialist expertise; commitment to the needs of students and the values of higher education; common funding and quality assurance mechanisms.
A growing number of higher education colleges in England have gained the right to award their own degrees and many more are in the process of applying for degree-awarding powers. Nine SCOP member colleges now have degree-awarding powers. The remaining 29 colleges have their degrees validated by a partner university or national accrediting body. The Government has proposed that higher education colleges which have their own degree-awarding powers and 4,000 students can become universities. The proposal has met with opposition from many existing universities. Probably no more than half of the current number of higher education colleges will be able to meet the criteria to become universities.
At the same time as these developments in the structure of universities and colleges in England, there is increasing emphasis on collaboration across universities, higher education colleges and further education colleges on a regional basis. Areas of collaboration including widening participation; new forms of vocational training; services to business and the community; and research.
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