Funding pressures have prompted a bid to merge two neighbouring sixth-form colleges to create a 1,400-student super college.
In the latest in a slow but steady series of mergers reflecting colleges' sense of vulnerability in the market-place, consultation has begun over proposals to combine South Park and Prior Pursglove colleges in Cleveland.
South Park, the slightly smaller partner after enrolling fewer than expected students last September, initiated the link amid fears that minority subjects such as music and Latin could be threatened by cash constraints.
Principal Tony Simpson denied South Park was seeking a rescue deal under the scheme, which would create one of the country's largest sixth-form colleges. He said: "You get the security with a large organisation which would not be as susceptible to market trends and student movements as a smaller one." He added the colleges, which have jockeyed for position in exam league tables, had a similar ethos.
Under the proposals, the merged college would maintain two sites about five miles apart. Both would offer all main subjects, but students might have to travel between sites for more specialist courses.
Savings would be made through a slimmed-down management structure and the pooling of resources for curriculum development.
Cleveland, which had nine sixth-form colleges at incorporation, has already seen three merge.