The axe may fall on London University's Institute of Commonwealth Studies following disagreements over its academic direction and fears over its financial viability.
The university's school of advanced study, of which the institute is part, has ordered a review of the institute and dissolution is on the agenda.
Terence Daintith, dean of the school and acting director of the institute, told staff in a circular: "The design of this approach is based on the view that the case for the continued existence of the institute, at least in its present form, should not be taken for granted."
Professor Daintith said there had been "serious differences of opinion as to the academic directions in which the institute should proceed". Much of the disagreement springs from the diversity of academic subject matter.
Professor Daintith took over when Pat Caplan left at the end of August. He said differences over such issues may have been intensified during Professor Caplan's time as director.
The circular raised questions about the economics of running an institute that entails administration and premises costs.
Professor Daintith said: "There needs to be clear demonstration that the institute adds sufficient value to the activities to justify such costs."
The review will examine the institute's role, mission, structure and activities. A six-strong review panel, chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny, pro vice-chancellor (development) at Oxford University, has already started its work. Recommendations should be with the directorate in November.