The board of the CRE (Association of European Universities) has agreed to ballot members on a merger with the Confederation of European Union Rectors Conferences.
The decision was taken at the CRE's conference last week and was to be discussed at a meeting of the confederation in Avignon, France, this week.
Members of both organisations will be asked for their response over the summer. Two-thirds of all CRE members must vote in favour if it is to go ahead.
Kenneth Edwards, CRE president, argued for a yes vote, saying the merger would not only be more efficient but would give higher education a single and therefore more powerful voice at European level at a key time for the sector.
But some members of both organisations are concerned because of the different geographical area each covers - the CRE represents institutions across the continent and is based in Geneva, while the confederation only represents university organisations within the European Union and is based in Brussels.
To combat these objections, the short-term plan is for the organisation to maintain offices in both Brussels and Geneva and possibly to have a European Union sub-group dealing exclusively with European Union matters.
It is likely that either the president or one of the vice-presidents will also always be from an EU country.
If the merger is agreed, officers of the new organisation will be elected after the summer and should be in place by May next year, when the Council of Ministers is expected to meet to discuss education and research.