Five members of an advisory committee to ministers on whether institutions can become universities have resigned ahead of Quality Assurance Agency reforms.
The committee is expected to lose the powers delegated to it by the former Higher Education Quality Council. These include both degree-awarding powers and advice to the Secretary of State and the Privy Council on awarding university titles.
The QAA's board is considering getting more closely involved itself. In a statement, John Randall, QAA chief executive, said: "The board will continue to seek the assistance of an expert degree awarding powers committee in discharging its responsibilities. It will take decisions shortly on the composition of that committee, and its relationship with the board.
"The board is grateful to the members of the degree-awarding powers committee appointed originally by HEQC. The work of all of them, including those now standing down, has been of the highest value."
However, the QAA board and the committee differ over Bolton Institute's application to call itself a university. A report from the committee to education secretary David Blunkett recommends approval whereas the QAA board report recommends rejection.
In a paper to the board, Mr Randall underlined the emphasis ministers had placed in meetings with QAA officials on taking a tough line in maintaining standards.
Baroness Blackstone, the higher education minister, had "made it clear that it was for the agency to advise on the question of whether degree standards had been maintained successfully".
Mr Randall recommended that despite the committee's conclusions, two adverse teaching quality assessment reports had left "sufficient doubt to make it impossible for a positive recommendation to be made".