More than Pounds 7 million worth of chips have been stolen from universities and colleges in the past two years, according to the first sector-wide estimates.
An estimated Pounds 7.5 million worth of chips have been stolen from the FE and new university sectors in that time, according to insurers Zurich Municipal.
Company spokesmen warn that thefts are growing and that unless institutions take steps to improve campus security, premiums will rise. Larry Stokes, underwriter manager for Zurich Municipal, said: "Basically, if security cannot be improved increases in premiums and deductables are inevitable."
But despite the warning, institutions say that funding constraints mean they cannot afford sophisticated security systems.
Bob Russell, spokesman for Essex University which had some Pounds 50,000 worth of chips stolen recently, said: "Chips thefts are an additional cost that the university can ill afford. But to fit alarms, costing around Pounds 100 a time, to every one of the university's hundreds of computers would be hugely expensive."
At West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds, burglars spent a night removing around Pounds 12,000 worth of chips from 80 computers before abseiling 60ft down the outside of the building, bypassing the alarmed stairwells.
A spokesman for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals said that the growing crime trend was worrying. "But it is a difficult situation because universities and colleges are traditionally open-access institutions and, unfortunately, I think this means they are targeted by criminals."
Insurance experts say that central processing units and memory chips are most commonly taken and that raids are often the work of organised gangs whose operatives can strip chips rapidly.