Lecturers' and student union leaders gave a ringing endorsement to the Liberal Democrats' opposition to tuition fees and further research concentration, underlining their disillusion with the Labour government.
Paul Mackney, general secretary of Natfhe, Terry McKnight, president of the Association of University Teachers, and Chris Weavers, vice-president of education at the National Union of Students, were speaking at a joint union fringe meeting.
Mr Mackney said: "Natfhe agrees with all the main principles in the Liberal Democrats' higher education policy. If you concentrate research in a few universities we will leave areas like the Southwest and the Northeast with no locally based research."
Dr McKnight said: "The proposal to introduce top-up fees is pernicious because what it will mean in reality is that we have to pay more to enrol in the most prestigious courses."
Mr Weavers said: "The government cannot have tuition fees and a successful widening participation programme."