Vice chancellors have said they are "alarmed" by proposals for stringent new inspection demands on teacher training courses and tough penalties for failing to meet them.
Conditions of funding for teacher training spelled out by the Teacher Training Agency in a consultation paper call on institutions to allow inspectors in "at all reasonable times" and publish their findings "in any form they consider appropriate".
Institutions will be required to cooperate with inspectors' requests for records and documents, and use their "best endeavours" to ensure members of staff, students, agents and contractors also cooperate.
Any institution failing to do so may be told by the TTA to repay up to 8.33 per cent of its total teacher training grant.
The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has written to the TTA and education minister Estelle Morris condemning the proposed requirements and sanctions as "unacceptable".
Vice chancellors are worried that unforeseen circumstances such as industrial action by staff or protest action in partner schools, like the National Association of Head Teachers' inspections boycott in 1996/97, may leave their institutions unable to meet inspectors' demands through no fault of their own.
"In some circumstances, institutions could face severe penalties for matters over which they have no control," the CVCP's response to the consultation paper warns.
The CVCP says there have also been occasions when institutions have prepared for inspection visits, only for these to be cancelled by the inspection agency Ofsted at short notice.
"It is unfair to propose sanctions on institutions for actions outside their control when inspectors may change arrangements without fear of financial penalty," the CVCP says.
The proposals have also been condemned by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers. UCET says the TTA's proposed sanctions are unnecessarily harsher than those reserved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
"We see no sustainable logic in this proposal, which simply attempts to provide the TTA with a bigger stick to hit institutions than that deemed necessary by HEFCE," the council says.
Sheena Evans, the TTA's head of finance and quality, said the requirements and sanctions were not new, but had simply been made "more explicit" for legal purposes.