Greek students would be prevented from attending UK engineering departments that failed to secure high marks in the last research assessment exercise under plans drawn up in Athens that have infuriated quality assurance watchdongs and vice-chancellors.
Greek authorities are in negotiations with the Quality Assurance Agency over the proposal to cease recognising departments that had RAE scores of less than 4 on the seven-point scale from 1 to 5*. There are fears that the sanction will be extended to apply to a wider range of subjects and that other countries could follow suit.
In a statement to The Times Higher , Peter Williams, the chief executive of the QAA, said: "The QAA is deeply concerned about this apparent unjustifiable breach of European regulations for the recognition of higher education qualifications. Along with other organisations, we are looking for a way to protect the legitimate interests of all students who come from Greece to study in the UK."
Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that more than 1,500 Greek students accepted places on higher education courses in Britain this year, making Greece the UK's tenth biggest supplier of overseas students.
Alec Coutroubis, a principal engineering lecturer at Greenwich University, said the proposals would affect thousands of current and future Greek students.
"Well-founded fears have been expressed that this is the first step in a chain of events that might well be followed by the eventual exclusion of other academic degrees, potentially affecting some 50 or more British universities," he said.
A Universities UK spokesman said: "Universities UK is aware of the range of recognition difficulties UK higher education institutions are encountering with the Greek authorities. We have raised these concerns at the highest levels."
* The QAA has given a clean bill of health to UK universities operating in China. It found that programmes run for 11,000 Chinese students were broadly comparable to those delivered in the UK.