The Higher Education (Wales) Bill was laid before the Welsh Assembly yesterday.
It is designed to give the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales new powers to enforce university plans on how they will spend tuition fees and a new financial code for institutions.
But universities in Wales have expressed concern that it will give the council disproportionate powers.
Amanda Wilkinson, director of Higher Education Wales which represents the Welsh sector, said the proposed powers “extend well beyond current existing controls and may have an adverse impact for both universities and students paying the additional fees”.
There are also fears that the bill will be fleshed out using statutory instruments – meaning the Assembly will not be able to scrutinise critical parts of the new legislation.
Ms Wilkinson also said that the bill had not been published in draft form to be scrutinised and debated by the sector.
Simon Thomas, the shadow education minister for Plaid Cymru, also criticised the bill in a statement.
“I am concerned that both the government and Hefcw are to all intents and purposes one body so we need Assembly scrutiny of how they govern and approve university spending,” he said.
“What we don’t want in Wales is weak universities dependent on day-to-day agreement and micro-management by the government.
“HEIs should be vibrant, independent and forceful institutions, capable and empowered to innovate whilst respecting the public nature of much of their funding.”