Proposals from Michael Gove that could see funding for teacher training moved from universities to schools risk "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" as far as quality is concerned, according to the head of the University Council for the Education of Teachers.
James Noble-Rogers said that if the education secretary's White Paper, expected in the next few weeks, removed universities from the equation it would be "damaging" for the quality of training and for schools.
"Ofsted (the schools inspectorate) inspects all university teacher training courses and has found nearly 90 per cent of them to be good or outstanding. And 85 per cent of newly qualified teachers tell the Training Development Agency that their training is good and relevant. You don't want to do anything that damages that quality," he said.
"Universities give student teachers time out of the classroom, where they can reflect and talk to students placed in contrasting schools to share experiences."
The UCET chief executive added that he believed there was a lack of understanding within government of the way courses were structured. "We're not entirely convinced that ministers are aware of the extent to which schools are already involved in teacher training," he said. "The partnership between schools and universities is already quite strong."
Mr Noble-Rogers said that his organisation shared the unease of Labour MP Pat Glass, who has written to schools minister Nick Gibb about her concerns that training would be "decimated" if the expected cuts to teaching provision in universities went ahead.
"We're in a bit of limbo at the moment. Not only are we waiting for the White Paper on teacher training, we're also waiting on details of how a new level of fees might affect those courses. But I think it's fair to say we are extremely apprehensive at the moment," Mr Noble-Rogers said.
He added that if universities chose to charge fees of £9,000, all vocational courses would have to look at the effect it may have on demand. "Universities need to think: Would someone like a PGCE student want to incur that level of debt?" he asked.
However, Mr Noble-Rogers did welcome some of Mr Gove's proposals. "His talk of more opportunities for teachers to study at master's level is something we are very much behind," he said.
"Michael Gove has said he wants to raise the status of teacher training by setting a bar of a 2:2 before teachers can attract funding for a PGCE course.
"We would go further than that and say that if moves were made towards making teaching an all-master's profession, as it is in countries like Finland, that would increase status even more."
However, Mr Noble-Rogers added that he "wouldn't want to keep people out of the profession thanks to some inflexible rule".
"Some exceptions do need to be made but it's sensible as an aspiration. Ideally, teaching ought to be a difficult profession to get into," he said.