Last week?s Times Higher Education Supplement has revealed that the London School of Economics (LSE) has announced it is to seek powers to award degrees in its own name. LSE, like every other University of London college (including Imperial), currently awards degrees in the University?s name.
The University of London?s formal line is that it has no objection to colleges holding degree-awarding powers ?in reserve?. However, there is no half-way house and any use of such powers would require that college to leave the federal University.
Imperial College applied for degree awarding powers last year. Following an assessment of Imperial?s worthiness to award degrees carried out earlier this year by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, powers are expected to be granted in the New Year. Imperial, like other applicants, has not yet made a formal decision as to whether to use degree awarding powers. However, Sir Richard Sykes stated his aspiration for Imperial College to gain independence "within five years" when speaking to students in January of this year. His senior officers have made similar rumblings, on the record.
LSE?s announcement follows that made by Kings College in the aftermath of the news the merger talks between Imperial and UCL. Should these applications be successful, it is expected that UCL and Queen Mary will follow suit with their own.
Although merger plans have now been abandoned, it seems that the future of the University of London is now even shakier. The government has indicated that it feels there are too many universities in the UK and that it wants to see consolidation in the higher education sector, particularly in London. With the IC-UCL marriage off the cards, for now, there is uncertainty as to exactly how consolidation will take place.
LSE and Kings students unions have long-standing policies committing their officers to campaign for the continuance of the federal University. The last emergency meeting of ULU Council also mandated ULU sabbatical officers to campaign for the "retention of the University of London in its present form." In contrast, Imperial College Union has no current policy on the future of the University.