Leading research universities have attacked plans to allow a European Institute of Technology to issue degrees and take money from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme.
Katrien Maes, executive director of the League of European Research Universities (Leru), said: "Europe has a number of very good research universities. An initiative such as this will not contribute to strengthening them."
The Commission said this week that EIT degrees should be awarded by consortia working within the EIT's proposed six knowledge and innovation communities.
Brussels said it was crucial to the institute's global reputation that these were clearly identifiable as "EIT degrees".
Leru counts Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford universities and University College London among its 20 members. A key concern for the league was the €2.4 billion (£1.6 billion) EIT budget, proposed in Brussels for 2007-13 by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Education Commissioner Ján Figel and Research Commissioner Janez Potonik.
While the €308 million launch funding would come from an unallocated fund for competitiveness, the Commission accepts that already allocated 2007-13 budgets would also be tapped. These would include FP7, lifelong learning programmes, structural (regional development) funds and the European Union competitiveness and innovation programme.
President Barroso said: "The EIT will tear down the walls between research, education and business to unlock Europe's potential for innovation."