British universities must collaborate more with other institutions or risk Soviet-style intervention by government and the funding council, universities chief Howard Newby said this week.
Sir Howard, president of Universities UK, told a cooperation and collaboration conference in London on Tuesday that universities should seek out institutions with complementary provision and build links and alliances as a matter of urgency.
Sir Howard, who is due to take over as chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England in September, said that no UK university had enough money to do everything expected - such as lifelong learning, economic regeneration and research - to levels of global excellence.
He said that there was inertia in higher education over achieving strategic links and that unless universities overcame it, there was a risk that collaboration would be enforced.
Colin Bell, vice-chancellor of Bradford University, which has a strategic alliance with Leeds Metropolitan University, told the conference that he favoured a Soviet-style Gosplan .
He said problems in modern languages and engineering recruitment and provision showed how individual institutions lacked the financial flexibility to adapt to rapid change in isolation.