The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals this week called on Government departments and research councils to throw open their doors to universities interested in taking on public sector research laboratories.
In a response to the Government's recently published efficiency scrutiny of 52 such centres, the CVCP said that such a move should only take place once organisational and funding problems have been solved.
The scrutiny study was carried out by a team reporting to Sir Peter Levene, head of the Cabinet Office's efficiency unit. Examples cited by the study of possible public laboratory transfers to HE institutions include the Natural Environment Research Council's Insitute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology moving to Oxford University and the Overseas Development Agency's Natural Resources Institute relocating to Greenwich University.
But the CVCP urges universities eyeing laboratories to consider the management, staffing and contractual implications of such transfers. It said: "Universities will be aware of experience with other transfers from the public sector where differences in pensions arrangements and staff employment terms have caused major difficulties."
The CVCP says funding arrangements need to be clear: "Bearing in mind the financial risks which universities would be taking on, any programmes transferred will need assured core funding for a transitional period."
It is also concerned that transfers of laboratories to particular institutions could deny other universities access to services and collaborative research opportunities.