UNIVERSITY status is likely to be conferred on Chester College in the next few days following speculation that a major hurdle has been cleared.
This week the Times Higher from-cational Supplement said it had learned it was 'likely' the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) had backed the bid, which was launched in 2000.
The QAA's verdict has gone to the Department for Education and Skills and will be passed to the Privy Council on Tuesday for final confirmation, though that is expected to be a formality.
College bosses and civic leaders are waiting with bated breath for the news which could see
the institution, which calls itself University College Chester, operating as a university in its own right from September under the name of University of Chester.
At the moment the college, which has bases in Chester and Warrington, is accredited to the University of Liverpool, giving it degree-awarding powers.
The move would attract more students and could spark an economic boom by persuading firms to come to Chester in search of recruits.
The issue was highlighted this week when Margaret Hodge, Minister for Children and Young People, visited the Parkgate Road campus
for a conference on childcare issues organised by Chester MP Christine Russell.
Mrs Russell told her: 'There is currently an application in for university status and we hope you will remember that!'
Yesterday (Thursday) she said: 'No news is good news and I am very optimistic of there being a positive announcement before Easter.'
Last month it was revealed that the college, which has 10,000 students and employs 1,000 staff, had seen a staggering rise in the number of students applying for places.
The latest figures show applications to Chester through the UCAS system were 48% up on last year, compared with a national sector increase of 9%.