The Scottish Executive has been urged to reject any moves to follow the English white paper proposals for 6* departments and more selective research funding or many universities will be "fatally weakened", writes Olga Wojtas.
But delegates at the Association of University Teachers Scotland annual council in Aberdeen last weekend also warned that if top-up fees were introduced elsewhere in the UK, the executive would need to at least match this new funding stream.
Delegates urged the council to affirm the right of all universities to have access to research funds. Alastair Hunter of Glasgow University said that the white paper's "mad proposition" on research risked reinventing the binary divide, with the threat of a two-tier system reinforced by top-up fees.
The council voted to "campaign actively" against fees in the run-up to the Scottish parliamentary election. The AUTS is also challenging Scottish university principals to make a public declaration of their opposition to top-ups.
Scott Styles of Aberdeen University said it was time principals used their influence in the wider political debate. Tom McDonnell, AUTS president, said Scottish higher education was a success story that was widely acknowledged but not rewarded.
The most impassioned debate was on a Glasgow motion opposing war in Iraq, which was passed with amendments. It pledges support for anti-war activities, condemns war as unjustified - calling it a breach of international law - and warns that war spending is at the expense of spending on education and public services.