Sir David Attenborough, Britain's most revered natural history presenter, has warned that intellectual spirit is being crushed in British universities.
Speaking to The Times Higher ahead of the launch of his new BBC series, Life in the Undergrowth , Sir David said that the Government's economic mission for higher education was in danger of driving out "the disinterested research and thought that was so distinctive about academic life".
He said: "I see universities more as a place for intellectual life than as training schools. Undoubtedly we are getting away from that. Is there any room for the pursuit of knowledge now?"
Sir David, who spent much of his childhood in Leicester University College where his father was principal, added that there no longer seemed to be room for true academic passion in today's universities.
He said that it was unlikely that the situation would improve under the new fee-paying regime.
"You can understand why people want to know why they should spend three years and an awful lot of money," he said.