Cambridge University's prestigious Kettle's Yard arts centre has been breaking the law by operating as a commercial entertainment venue without a licence.
Director Michael Harrison this week admitted that the centre had been inadvertently staging concerts in breach of licensing laws, after initially denying any breach.
The blunder, which could technically lead to a criminal prosecution, will cause embarrassment to the centre's leaders - senior academics and managers.
The management committee includes Mike Sheppard, the managing director of Schlumberger Cambridge Research, and is chaired by Marilyn Strathern, mistress of Girton College. Professor Strathern took over from David King, now the government's chief scientific adviser and master of Downing College.
The centre was forced to cancel a series of jazz concerts funded by the Arts Council last month after Cambridgeshire County Council pointed out the licence lapse. The council has confirmed that the centre has now made its first application for a licence.
Mr Harrison originally said that previous concerts had been private subscribers' events, or had involved no more than two musicians, neither of which require a public entertainment licence. The cancelled concerts would have been a new venture.
This week, Mr Harrison admitted that the council had notified the centre that it should seek a licence because of the nature of events it had been putting on. He said: "We've had a series of concerts which have been subscribers' only and this is how Kettle's Yard music began in 1970 and that was the sole diet of music at Kettle's Yard for years. Recently we've been looking to broaden that. Now we are broadening, we need an entertainments licence."
It is understood that no action will be taken against the centre.