A consortium of further education colleges has been established to help recruit students from overseas and prepare them for university.
The International Further Education Colleges Consortium (IFECC) comprises City of Bath, Chichester, Greenwich Community and Wiltshire colleges.
The consortium, which is led by City of Bath College, was set up to provide up to 250 overseas students a year to the University of Bath.
IFECC recruits the students, whose applications are handled by City of Bath College, to undertake an International Foundation Year course. Offered at A-level standard, this is designed to help students adapt to the UK higher education system and to prepare them for study at university level.
Students will study at one of the colleges, which they are asked to list in order of preference when applying, after which they can progress to an undergraduate degree at the University of Bath, subject to meeting entry requirements.
Matt Atkinson, principal of City of Bath College, said his college had been running an international foundation year course for the past decade but that it had delivered only 60 students a year.
However, when the university put the contract out to tender it was looking for 250 students annually. Mr Atkinson said the obvious answer was to create a consortium to meet the university's requirements.
"Colleges coming together to work in partnership has to be the way forward," Mr Atkinson said.
"This is a marriage made in heaven in some ways because the core business of the university is undergraduate and postgraduate, not preparing students for study. But that is the core business of consortium members."
Shelagh Legrave, principal designate of Chichester College, said: "By coming together as a consortium of FE colleges we have been able to compete successfully against established private sector companies to win the contract."
Wiltshire College principal Di Dale said: "Managing this will certainly be a challenge but it will also be a great learning experience for all the colleges. It will lead us to share good practice and ultimately improve the experience for students on programmes other than the foundation year."
Geoff Pine, principal of Greenwich Community College, said: "Not only are we offering inter- national students the opportunity to progress onto one of the country's most prestigious universities but we are also giving them the option to study and live in one of the world's most diverse and vibrant cities."
The international students will be charged around pound;10,500 for the one-year foundation course when it starts next year. The bulk of the money will be re- tained by colleges minus administration costs.
A programme director will oversee the initiative, ensuring consistency between the four providers. Social networking and visits to the university campus will be used to create a sense of identity and belonging among the geographically dispersed students.
The foundation year includes lectures, tutorials and, if appropriate, laboratory work. Students can study a combination of subjects including biology, business, chemistry, economics, English for specific purposes, maths, physics and social science.