Politicians from both sides have criticised the University of Ulster for deciding to validate part of a new training programme for police recruits.
The future of policing is at the centre of political debate in Northern Ireland after the publication of Chris Patten's controversial proposals for reforming the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The nationalist SDLP said the involvement of UU did not represent the major changes demanded by the Patten commission. And Sinn Fein accused the university of helping to give the "discredited" police force "a cloak of credibility".
UU remained stoically silent, but a senior source accused Sinn Fein of misinterpreting the university's contribution to the programme.
The new intake to the RUC is the first in the United Kingdom to take part in a programme that will eventually give every fully qualified constable a recognised academic award.
SDLP justice spokesman Alex Attwood said: "What is being proposed is not what Patten recommended. His recommendations were for a new training college, with greater emphasis on human rights.
"They are radical compared with the changes proposed, and if the Northern Ireland Office or Police Authority think it is adequate they are fooling themselves."
Bairbre de Brun of Sinn Fein said it was a stunt aimed at discouraging implementation of the Patten plan. She attacked the university for giving accreditation to a police training centre that should have been closed.
A senior UU source said, however: "This is not a new departure. For more than 20 years we have been contributing to professional training.
"Working with the public sector to strengthen professional training is central to the university ethos."