A framework of 30 architects is being drawn up by the Department for Education and Skills to design 20 city academies, which will specialise in technological subjects.
The department intends to award framework contracts, but the architects will be selected on a project-by-project basis, although details have yet to be finalised.

A departmental source said: "This framework is unique to the city academies. We are currently evaluating the bids."

Bids for the scheme were due for submission last week, and the 30 architects are expected to be chosen by the end of next month.

Architect Foster and Partners has unexpectedly put in a bid; it rarely pitches for framework agreements. Foster director Ken Shuttleworth said the move showed the practice's interest in education projects.

This framework is unique to the city academies

Education department source

The architects will lead design teams including quantity surveyors, building services engineers, structural and civil engineers, planning managers and architectural landscapers.

The department invited initial expressions of interest in November last year in an advertisement in the European Union's Official Journal.