College sweethearts

Under-funding is behind the proposed marriage between two of Britain's most prestigious universities.

Pat Hagan(

The news that University College London (UCL) and Imperial College, two of Britain's most respected universities, are negotiating a possible merger has two possible interpretations. It's either an opportunity to create a so-called "super-university" that would eclipse the likes of Oxford and Cambridge in terms of research income, or it's a last-ditch bid to save both institutions from decline brought about by under-funding.

According to Sir Derek Roberts, the provost of UCL, it's the former. Earlier this week, The Independent newspaper quoted him as saying: "This is about creating the world's number one university. This would put Oxford and Cambridge way, way behind and put us in a strong position to rival Harvard."

But it also emerged that the idea has been given added impetus by mounting concerns over the long-term effects of inadequate research funding. In a letter to his staff, Imperial College rector Sir Richard Sykes...

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