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'New' universities announced

Ten smaller higher education colleges in England, including three specialist arts institutions and the Royal Agricultural College, are to become full universities, the government has announced.

The move, which had been anticipated, is the largest one-off creation of universities since polytechnics were awarded university status in 1992. It came after Universities minister David Willetts's department reduced the minimum student intake of 4,000 for a university to 1,000.

Along with the Cotswolds-based Royal Agricultural College, founded almost 170 years ago, the other institutions being recommended are the Arts University College at Bournemouth – in Poole – Lincoln's Bishop Grosseteste University College, Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, Leeds Trinity University College, Newman University College, Birmingham, Norwich University College of the Arts, University College Birmingham, University College Falmouth and University College Plymouth St Mark and St John.

"These well-known and highly regarded university colleges represent over 1,200 years of history between them," said Mr Willetts in a statement. "It is right to remove the barriers preventing high-quality, higher education providers like these calling themselves universities simply because of their size.”

The 10 institutions span a variety of subjects and histories, with three specialising in the arts – Bournemouth, Norwich and Falmouth – and two – Royal Agricultural College and Harper Adams University College – devoted to agriculture. The other five offer a wider variety of courses mainly centred around the arts, humanities and teaching, and these often have their quirks and individualities.

The government says the change is part of a drive to promote diversity in the university sector which will improve standards and student choice.

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