Universities Secretary John Denham has called for the Quality Assurance Agency to respond more rapidly when questions are raised about standards in higher education.
In his annual speech to the Universities UK conference, Mr Denham said that concern stemming from "isolated reports" over the summer about the quality of university courses could be "very damaging" to higher education's reputation.
"I ... want to see the QAA in a position where it is able to respond much more proactively and quickly to reports that give rise to such concerns," he said.
"This is the best way to show that the higher education system not only has its house in order, but also can show its house is in order."
Mr Denham also reacted to the furore prompted last week after Alison Richard, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, was quoted in a national newspaper saying that while the university could help promote social mobility, this was not its core mission.
He told the conference: "It has been suggested that universities and, by extension, education, is not an engine for social justice. I have to say I profoundly disagree.
"Education is the most powerful tool we have in achieving social justice. From that recognition, the responsibility arises - not to lower standards - but to seek out, support and nurture talent, wherever it exists."
Mr Denham revealed that recommendations from a series of reviews he has commissioned on the future of the sector, out in October, include a call for universities to radically remodel their curriculum to cater for students studying in non-traditional ways, and an end to the demarcation between part-time and full-time students.
Mr Denham also announced a further series of reviews incorporating views from outside the sector (see below).
Research and technology transfer
John Chisholm, chairman of QinetiQ and the Medical Research Council
Tom Russell, head of the London Development Agency's Olympic Legacy Directorate
Sir Ron Cooke, former chair of the Joint Information Systems Committee
Arts and culture
Nick Hytner, director of the National Theatre
John Griffith-Jones, joint chairman and UK senior partner of KPMG
Dame Marjorie Scardino, a member of the Prime Minister's Business Council of Britain, and chief executive of Pearson
Anthony Lilley of Magic Lantern, a small business in the creative sector
The National Student Forum
Thirumalachari Ramasami, secretary to the Indian Department for Science and Technology.