The prospect that the government is considering cuts in university core funding drew a dismayed warning from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals on Wednesday.
Representatives told the House of Commons science and technology committee that any such move in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review would have serious repercussions. They were giving evidence to the committee's inquiry into the impact of the 1993 white paper Realising our Potential.
This is expected to feed into this summer's Science and Innovation white paper, which is expected to focus on enhancing the science base, knowledge transfer and the public understanding of science.
Alan Wilson, vice-chancellor of Leeds University, Roderick Floud, provost of London Guildhall University, and Lord Oxburgh, rector of Imperial College, London, said universities needed resources to build UK competitiveness.
"We view with dismay reports that the government may be proposing new cuts" as the UK is still investing less in basic research than in 1983, they said. There was an "urgent need to repair teaching infrastructure across the sector to avoid students being taught on out-of-date equipment in run-down laboratories".