EDGE Hill College is to bid for university status under radical government proposals to upgrade non-research educational institutions.
The Ormskirk-based college is one of several in the country, including Chester College, that are preparing to take advantage of plans contained in the Higher Education Bill being debated in Parliament.
Last night, Dr Jon Cater, principal and chief executive at the college, said: "Edge Hill is fulfilling the role of a university in everything but name and we believe it deserves the title.
"In 1992, the government made several polytechnics into universities, and the colleges missed out because we were too small in size.
"Now I believe it is important to have clarity in the marketplace so people know they are getting a degree of the same quality that they would get in any university when they come to Edge Hill because our teaching and learning are excellent.
"I also think parity of esteem is important. Two-thirds of our students are studying to become either teachers or health care professionals, it is about time they were recognised with the same status as other graduates."
The main Edge Hill campus is in Ormskirk, but it also has bases in Liverpool, Chorley, Winsford and Stockport.
At the moment, the college awards degrees from Lancaster University and currently has around 9,000 students, enlisted on more than 300 degree and postgraduate courses. A further 3,000 are enrolled on other vocational programmes.
The college employs around 1,440 people, including around 660 lecturing staff, with around one third of the establishment dedicated to teacher training, one third to health care and the rest spread across a range of other higher education topics.
Although gaining university status would not bring in any direct funds to the college, it would allow Edge Hill to give out its own degrees and tap into university funding streams like top-up fees in future.
Dr Cater said: "In 10 to 15 years' time, institutions like Edge Hill will either have become universities, or they will not exist. Getting university status will be crucial to secure future funding.
"We need to rationalise the system to gain clarity, so we can offer potential students a quantifiable choice."