Geraldine Kenney-Wallace, vice- chancellor and managing director of the British Aerospace University, faced questioning over her company's use of the title university at a Lancaster conference this week.
Professor Kenney-Wallace was giving the opening address at the Society for Research into Higher Education's annual gathering. She rebutted remarks by Clive Booth, chairman of the Teacher Training Agency, querying the title.
Professor Kenney-Wallace said that the education minister Baroness Blackstone was entirely relaxed with BAe's approach.
The SRHE conference, "Tomorrow's World: The Globalisation of Higher Education", sponsored by The THES, was divided between sceptics and optimists. The former argued that the future of the university as it had evolved over 500 years was at risk and that only a few mega-institutions would soon remain.
Optimists viewed global flows of people and information as offering mass access to learning and new forms of knowledge creation.
Rosemary Deem, head of the gender institute at Lancaster University, said managerialist ideologies may be unable to solve the resource problems of universities. "Universities may need to seek more localised ways forward rather than adopting I global solutions to their problems."
Anthony Potts of La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, pointed to likely attempts to resist forces of globalisation and preserve economic, cultural and personal identity.