Nottingham Trent University has ordered a fresh look at Southampton Institute's troubled overseas franchise operation in an effort to safeguard its own reputation.
The extraordinary intervention follows a fierce institutional review, conducted by the university's academic auditors and seen by The THES, which criticises the institute's overseas activity as being "commercially rather than academically driven".
It also admonishes the institute's directorate for underestimating the scale of the problems highlighted by the Higher Education Quality Council earlier this year.
NTU's move represents a severe setback for the institute which, as the country's biggest institute of higher education, has been bidding to become a full university.
It is also a fresh personal blow to David Leyland, the institute's director. The review was critical of management and noted that the problems "will be more difficult and time consuming to resolve than the Institute Directorate believes".
The institute, which runs NTU-validated courses, has been forced into the unusual position of having to seek prior approval from the university for every new overseas venture involving NTU degrees.
Yet the prospect of further foreign activity following the much-publicised difficulties surrounding institute's Athens campus seems poor. The university found that Southampton, which is "still maturing as an institution", had "entered quickly into a range of overseas collaborations without the benefit of previous experience or a clearly though out strategy".
It said the time had come "to concentrate on firmly establishing existing activity rather than entering into new collaboration".
NTU is so concerned about the overseas ventures that it is planning a round of visits to each foreign-based campus, including Athens, Alicante and "outreach" centres in Bombay and elsewhere, which do not have the status of a full campus, as part of a more rigorous annual monitoring programme.
The university is also reserving the right to give final approval for any future publicity and marketing material associated with NTU award-bearing courses at home and overseas. The report also criticises the institute's international office, whose role was declared "unclear".
Keith Short, NTU's deputy vice chancellor, said: "We are very satisfied with the exemplary way in which the UK-based courses are being handled. We now want to see the same procedures for the institute's overseas activities."
Brighton Polytechnic's founding director Geoffrey Hall is expected to adjudicate on the institute's communication process when he completes his independent review later this year.
No one at Southampton Institute was available for comment.