The Many Mergers of English Higher Education

Most English universities have had some form of merger at some point.

I’d done a piece of work for a session on the Higher Education world since 1992 looking at the changes in institutions.  I’d started to compile a list of the institutions that had changed, hoping that I might do a nice graphic showing the ones that had merged, but it soon transpired that most of the HEIs that transferred into HEFCE’s sector in the 1990s had done some form of merger.  Then there was an interesting piece by Anna Fazackerley in the Guardian on take-overs and mergers which, by highlighting only three mergers gives the impression that they’re rarer than you’d think.

The biggest structural change since the start of the binary policy was the amalgamation of  local authority colleges to create the polytechnics.  Government was looking for large centres to sustain standards, so authorities brought together collections of their colleges into one big college.  Then the major change in policy after the James Report saw many colleges of education merge either together or into a university of polytechnic.  The final major wave was the transfer of health care to the HE sector, with schools of nursing or other health studies merging into HEIs.  These mergers came about because of major external policy drivers.

The other comprehensive exercise which resulted in mergers was the rationalisation of colleges in the University of London – first the general colleges, and later the medical schools.  Some of the mergers carried the name forward, with Royal Holloway and Bedford College or Queen Mary and Westfield, but these have now vanished from the trading name.  Driven by reductions in funding, the UGC had also amalgamated provision, say by moving Bradford’s psychology course to Leeds, but I have excluded that as not being a merger.

Of the 140 HEIs which were on HEFCE’s books in 1994, I reckon only 32 haven’t had some form of merger.    Although colleges have migrated to Oxford and Cambridge, I’m only counting Homerton as a merger – as it was a HEFCE-funded HEI.  I may have missed information on an old merger – some universities are proud of the many different places that form their roots, but other want to emphasise a single stem.

Institution in 1994
Anglia Polytechnic University Merger of CCAT & Chelmer Institute (in turn two colleges) plus nursing merger
Aston University none
University of Bath none
Bath College of HE Merger of Art & education colleges
University of Birmingham Merged with westhill
Birkbeck College none
Bishop Grosseteste College none
Bolton Institute of HE Merger of Bolton Institute of Technology & Bolton College of Education
Bournemouth University none
University of Bradford Merger with nursing college
Bretton Hall Merged into Leeds, site closed
University of Brighton Merger at designation, later with Brighton College of Education East Sussex College of Higher Education & nursing colleges
University of Bristol none
Brunel University Merged with West London Institute of HE, site now closed
Buckinghamshire College of HE High Wycombe College of Art and Technology merged with the Newland Park College of Education
University of Cambridge Merger of Homerton College into Education & as a College
University of Central England 5 Colleges merged at polytechnic designation, then 3 education colleges & 2 nursing colleges
University of Central Lancashire none
Central School of Speech & Drama none (save joining London University)
Canterbury Christ Church College Merged with College of Guidance Studies
Cheltenham and Gloucester CHE Merger of colleges of education & College of Technology
Chester College of HE Merger with Warrington Collegiate Institute
Chichester Institute Merger of colleges of education
City University Merger with nursing college & Inns of Court School of Law
Coventry University Merger of Lanchester College of Technology, College of Art & Rugby College of Engineering Technology
Cranfield University Merged with National College of Agricultural Engineering
Dartington College of Arts Merged into Falmouth
De Montfort University Merged with Bedford College & FE Colleges & de-merged
University of Derby Art, Technical & education colleges merged, then Matlock College of Education
University of Durham Merged with College of Education
University of East Anglia Merger with College of Education, merger & de-merger with Newcastle
University of East London Three colleges merged at polytechnic designation
Edge Hill College of HE Merger with nursing college
Institute of Education Merged into UCL
University of Essex none
University of Exeter Merged with college of education
Falmouth College of Arts Merger with Dartington
Goldsmiths College none
University of Greenwich Woolwich Polytechnic merged with Hammersmith College of Art and Building at Polytechnic designation. Then Dartford College (1976), Avery Hill College (1985), Garnett College (1987) and parts of Goldsmiths College and the City of London College
The College of Guidance Studies Merged with CCCU
Harper Adams Agricultural College none
University of Hertfordshire Mergers with colleges of education and nursing
Homerton College Merged into Cambridge
University of Huddersfield Merger of College of Technology & Oastler College of Education at desgnation, later with Technical Teaching Training College at Holly Bank
University of Hull Merger with Scarborough
University of Humberside 5 Colleges merged to become Hull College of HE, later merges with Lincolshire colleges of De Montfort
School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine none
Imperial College Royal Colleges of Chemistry & Science, School of Mines & C&C Central Institute. Later medical school merger
Institute of Advanced Nursing Education
Keele University Merged with health studies colleges
University of Kent at Canterbury None
Kent Institute of Art & Design Merged into university of creative arts
King Alfred’s College Merger with nursing colleges
King’s College London De-Merger & re-Merger with Queen Elizabeth College & Health mergers
Kingston University Merger at designation, later with Gipsy Hill College of Education
Lancaster University none
La Sainte Union College of HE Mergerd into Southampton, site closed
University of Leeds Merged with Bretton Hall, site closed, also health studies
Leeds Metropolitan University Merged at designation – later merged and then de-merged with Harrogate College
University of Leicester Merged with Vaughan College (1927)
University of Liverpool none
Liverpool Institute of HE Merger of colleges of education
Liverpool John Moores University Mergers before polytechnic designation
University of London Federal university – constant mergers…
London Business School none
London School of Economics & Political Science none
London Guildhall University Merged with UNL
The London Institute Merger of Art Colleges
Loughborough University of Technology Merged with Art College
Loughborough Coll of Art & Design Merged into Loughborough
University of Luton Merged with nursing colleges, merged with Bedford campus of De Montfort
University of Manchester Merged with UMIST
UMIST Merged with Manchester
Manchester Metropolitan University Merger of lots of colleges, including Crewe & Alasager
Middlesex University Mergers before polytechnic designation, then Trent Park College of Education, New College of Speech and Drama & College of All Saints
Nene College Colleges of Technology & Education merge, health care studies added
University of Newcastle upon Tyne Merges and de-merges with Durham University, with merge with parts of Durham again
Newman College none
University of North London Merged with Guildhall
North Riding College Merged into Hull, site closing
Northern School of Contemporary Dance none
University of Northumbria at Newcastle Merger at polytechnic designation, later with Northern Counties College of Education and then health studies
Norwich School of Art & Design Merged with Great Yarmouth College of Art
University of Nottingham Merged with Midlands Agricultural and Dairy College (1947)
Nottingham Trent University Merger at polytechnic designation, later with Nottingham College of Education
Open University none
School of Oriental & African Studies none
University of Oxford none
Oxford Brookes University Merger with health colleges & education colleges
School of Pharmacy Merged into UCL
University of Plymouth Merged with Rolle College, the Exeter College of Art and Design, Seale-Hayne College & Plymouth School of Maritime Studies
University of Portsmouth Merged with Portsmouth College of Education
Queen Mary & Westfield College Merger of Queen Mary & Westfield, merger with medical schools
Ravensbourne College Bromley School of Art merged with the Department of Furniture Design of the Beckenham School of Art
University of Reading Merger with Henley Business School, Bulmershe College
College of Ripon & York St John Merger of two colleges, Ripon site now closed
Roehampton Institute Merger of four education colleges
Rose Bruford College none
Royal Academy of Music none
Royal College of Art none
Royal College of Music none
Royal Holloway Merged with Bedford College
Royal Northern College of Music none
Royal Postgraduate Medical School Merged with imperial
Royal Veterinary College none
St George’s Hospital Medical School None (merger called off)
College of St Mark & St John Two colleges of education merged in 1923
S. Martin’s College Merged into University of Cumbria
St Mary’s College none
University of Salford Merged with College of Tech
Salford College of Technology Merged with Salford
University of Sheffield Merger with Sheffield and North Trent College of Nursing and Midwifery (but no longer teaching nursing)
Sheffield Hallam University Merger at polytechnic designation (Sheffield School of Design & College of Technology) later Sheffield City College and Totley Hall College
University of Southampton Merger with LSU & WSA
Southampton Institute of HE Merger with school of navigation
South Bank University Merger at polytechnic designation, later Rachel MacMillan College of Education & Battersea College of Education
Staffordshire University Merger at polytechnic designation: Stoke-on-Trent College of Art, North Staffordshire College of Technology & Staffordshire College of Technology plus college of education later
University of Sunderland Merger at Polytechnic designation: art, education & technology colleges
Surrey Institute of Art and Design Merged into Uni of Creative Arts
University of Surrey Merged with Roehampton, de-merged with Roehampton
University of Sussex none
University of Teesside Merger with Teesside College of Education
Thames Valley University Merged with Reading College & demerged
Trinity & All Saints Two colleges of education merged
Trinity College of Music Merged with Laban Centre
University College London Merged with IoE, Slavonic Studies, Pharmacy & Medical Schools
University of Warwick Merged with college of education
Westhill College Merged into Birmingham
University of Westminster Merger with Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce
Westminster College Merged into Oxford Brookes
University of West of England Merger at Polytechnic designation, then college of education (St Matthias) & nursing colleges
Wimbledon School of Art Merged into University of the Arts
Winchester School of Art Merged into Southampton
University of Wolverhampton College of Technology merged with College of Art & later West Midlands College of Higher Education
Worcester College of HE Merger with nursing college
Writtle College none
Wye College Merged into Imperial, site closed
University of York none

Mergers have come about because of a combination of strategy and exigency, generally the sense that a larger comprehensive body will better survive or thrive – Merging Colleges for Mutual Growth as described in James Martin and James E. Samels helpful book.  What the English experience shows is that an external body has often been involved, if only to validate the necessity of merger.  Sometimes it is clear that the external body has eased the path; HEFCE Chief Executives have sweetened emergency mergers in a way that their successors at OfS might struggle to achieve.


Some of these ‘mergers’ have, in the long run, been managed market exits.  This route protects students and staff but also the alumni.  There’s little physical trace now of La Sainte Union College, Southampton – its site is now housing – perhaps it’s only ongoing remnant is the podiatry course at Southampton.  The Wheatley site of Lady Spencer Churchill College (merged with Oxford Polytechnic in 1972) will finally go for housing in 2022, but members of its staff stayed all the way to retirement having clocked up 40 years service.  Will Secretaries of State really let a university close?  When Cardiff had its crisis in 1986, Ken Baker could have let it close – but he chose not to, and emphatically issued a press release making clear that ‘No University Will Close’ (DES News 247/86).  Maybe the OfS will find that it will still be in the business of facilitating mergers…


6 thoughts on “The Many Mergers of English Higher Education

  1. Interesting one – many of are smaller units being absorbed into a bigger institution rather a full uni-to-uni merge. I’m guessing there’s an endless literature on M&A in the organisational studies/business literature, but haven’t seen any in terms of HE. Do you know of any?

  2. I think that’s why people forget about mergers – it’s only the big Manchester one (with its vast cost) or the London Metropolitan one (with its endless problems) that stick in the mind. Until now geography has been a problem – but with Coventry popping up in HE cold spots such as Scarborough or Dagenham, that may be solvable
    The only HE merger book I’ve seen in the one I mention above – Merging Colleges for Mutual Growth (which I realise is now quite old). I’ve seen various case studies based on the various UK mergers (big and small) but few take the long term view in order to evaluate after, say, 10 years.

    • Hi, thanks – I should have made it clearer, in order to show the contrast, I’ve left the institutions’ names as they were in 1994. So it’s Anglia Polytechnic University not Ruskin, etc. The 25 years since the abolition of the binary divide have been pretty dynamic…

  3. Ah, of course, I should have spotted that! Sorry, was a bit early in the morning when I read it, the coffee had not yet kicked in 🙂 It would be interesting to bring the analysis up to date and see what’s happened since though, as you say, it’s been a very dynamic period. Interesting to speculate as to what people 100 years from now will make of this period…

  4. Pingback: Chief Executive’s pay: a provocation | moremeansbetter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s