Competition looms between the University of Bradford and Bradford College as the latter moves towards higher education’s biggest prize – full degree-awarding powers.

For the first time, the College has had the opportunity to apply to award its own foundation degrees. However, it has declined the offer in favour of being granted permission to offer a full range of courses at degree level.

Mike Harwood, the College’s executive director, said: “Bradford College and Bradford are in a unique position. It’s a very peculiar position for the sector in that Bradford is a city with only one university. In most cities you will find a former polytechnic as well as a redbrick – or whatever other type – of university.”

The College’s long history will mean the step-up to full degree provision should not prove too difficult. It is the largest provider of higher education outside the formal higher education sector.

It already offers many vocational foundation degree courses and full honours degrees in business studies, contemporary surface design and textiles and ophthalmic dispensing with management, among others. However, all the college’s awards are certified by Leeds Metropolitan University.

Mr Harwood denies that applying for full degree-awarding powers could take prospective students away from the University of Bradford. “The college and the university have very different curricula. At the college we already have a full range of programmes right up to masters level,” he said.

Mr Harwood said a final decision was not one which would be made lightly. He said: “It would require any institution to have to a significant track record of delivery because of the infrastructure that would be necessary to regulate its own degrees.”

A spokesman for The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said: “We do not subscribe to the view that further education colleges with powers necessarily present a threat to the higher education sector.

“Further education colleges would not take business from higher education institutions but would contribute to a general growth in provision.”

The University of Bradford did not wish to comment.