The creation of a fourth university in Birmingham has drawn a step closer with one of the city's colleges granted the power to award degrees.
Newman College of Higher Education in Bartley Green was this week made a "university college" by the Government.
It means the centre has been judged good enough to issue degrees in its name, rather than having to link up with another more established institution.
But the college has been barred from calling itself a full university - despite its courses been judged equal in quality - because it is considered too small.
Under arcane Government rules, a higher education institution has to have more than 4,000 students to gain full university status.
Newman currently has 3,000, though the centre is rapidly growing. Last year alone applicants for places on its 49 undergraduate courses grew by 22.8 per cent.
Principal, Pamela Taylor said: "If we grow to 4,000 full-time students then we can apply to become a fully-fledged university.
"We would be delighted to be Birmingham's fourth university. It is something we will continue to work towards. At the moment we are in a position where demand for places outstrips provision.
"We are trying to get funding so we can have additional provision."
Newman was originally established as a teacher training college. Some 30 per cent of its students are still trainee teachers, but provision in other subjects has grown significantly in recent years.
It now offers a wide range of courses from sports, to English, history and geography as well as vocational foundation degrees.
Inspectors from the Quality Assurance Agency, the standards body for higher education, spent 12 months at Newman College assessing its provision.
"The QAA sent in a team of reviewers and they lived with us for a year," said Ms Taylor. "They go over everything. They interview students and staff, local employers and other stakeholders.
"They really drill down into your quality and standards. The outcome of being awarded this by the Privy Council confirms what we offer students is on par with what any other university offers students.
"We will be able to offer the same experience in terms of quality."
A name change will soon be confirmed for Newman by the Privy Council, which sanctions changes in status to higher education institutions.
Because of the size issue, however, Newman is likely to retain the word "college" within its title.
Ms Taylor said the institution prided itself on the greater intimacy afforded by its size, rather than seeing it as a reason to be penalised.
"If you look at the best universities in the country, what they offer is a terrific opportunity for students in terms of the range of courses they offer.
"What distinguishes them is they offer both the arts and the science. Where I would place us is we are a liberal arts university.
"There is a place in the UK sector for smaller liberal arts universities. But we are content with university status and we will spend the next few years strengthening every aspect of our provision for students."
A £15 million refurbishment programme has started at Newman which is set to transform the site.
Ms Taylor described the centre as "Birmingham's best kept secret", because of its location on the edge of the city, which was beginning to gain wider recognition.
"This will be a huge boost to Birmingham," she said.
"It means Birmingham can be very proud to have another institution that is offering real choice for students. I hope it will add to the reputation Birmingham has got in learning."