Duplicate copies of up to 11,000 foreign language journals and periodicals are to be axed by the British Library, sparking fears that university research will suffer.
Research panel chairmen say that the decision could leave academics struggling to gain access to crucial reference material.
The decision is part of a draconian cost-cutting plan that attempts to make up a forecast Pounds 30 million shortfall over the next three years, during which time the library is to move to its new building at St Pancras, London.
Library chiefs have already announced up to 200 redundancies and reduced opening hours. They have also refused to rule out cuts to their book acquisitions budget.
Manchester University professor John Elsworth, chairman of the Russian, Slavonic and East European languages panel, said: "There is great concern. In the medium to long term it is going to damage our competitiveness. It will be hard for our best scholars to stay at the same level internationally."
Durham University professor Michael Prestwich, chairman of the history panel, said: "In all sorts of ways it will be disastrous. It has come at a particularly bad time because there is increasing financial pressure on universities and their libraries, in fact universities and researchers are more dependent on the British Library."
UMIST professor Cary Cooper, chairman of the business and management studies panel, said: "I came over from the United States because of the country's excellent scholarly reputation and the British Library is the focal point of everything. We want scholars to continue to come here but if we limit the British Library then we are going to affect research throughout the world."
Two copies of journals have been traditionally ordered so that one copy can be held in London for reference while another goes to the Document Supply Centre, at Boston Spa, in West Yorkshire, from which academics can order photocopies.
A British Library spokeswoman said: "We are used by all the public and academic libraries and we will have to decide where best the single journal and periodical copies will be placed."