The Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) and the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College have agreed to merge, creating a new arts college from Monday 1 August.
Last month the KIAD made the headlines for all the wrong reasons following the defection of Don Gray, the head of the institute's Canterbury School of Architecture, to the rival University of Kent.
However, both professor Elaine Thomas of the Surrey institute and KIAD director Vaughan Grylls believe the move will bolster the new organisation's bid to acquire 'specialist arts university status.'
In a joint statement they said: 'The legal agreement represents months of shared planning and commitment and provides a strong platform on which to build a specialist arts university for the South East.
'We will now champion our specialist subjects, build on our fast developing research culture, and further the aspirations and achievements of our students and staff.
'We remain realistic as to the challenges ahead, but look forward to realising a successful future.'
Supported by a £2.3 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the new college now has campuses in Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester.by Richard Waite