Vice chancellors are facing further delays before they can discuss the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposals for a single quality body.
The funding council is committed to producing a blueprint for a single quality body "by the spring", and to consulting with vice chancellors, but will not have a discussion paper ready for the main committee meeting of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals on February 10.
Instead a discussion document is being produced for four days later when the chief executive of the funding council is to meet with the chairmen of the CVCP and the Standing Conference of Principals.
Clive Booth, vice chairman of the CVCP and vice chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said he would be very "disappointed" if HEFCE had produced nothing by the main committee meeting, as vice chancellors wanted to be able to steer their chairman in his discussions with HEFCE.
Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, asked the funding council to find a way forward when she spoke to the CVCP on December 2.
Roger Brown, chief executive of the Higher Education Quality Council said that "strategic" issues needed to be addressed: "All institutions need to have in place a robust quality assurance system that will meet the basic needs of external stake-holders, doing away with the duplication of effort that now dogs the system."
In a speech to a conference on quality in Warwick at the end of last year, Tim Boswell, minister for further and higher education, indicated that he was thinking along the same lines.
He said: "I could just envisage a situation where internal course reviews were so transparent, so willing to involve external stakeholders, and focused so heavily on benchmarking against similar provision elsewhere and being open about the findings, that they might form the basis of a unified system."
But he added: "We are very, very far from that as yet."