The threat posed to UK universities by private education providers will be the subject of a major Universities UK research project.
The study will follow a report for the UUK by Roger King, former vice-chancellor of the University of Lincoln. It warned that global growth in private institutions could leave publicly funded universities "caught in the middle" - forced to compete on price and standards.
Worldwide, one in three students is in the private sector. The figure is set to rise as markets such as China expand private provision. The new project will look at private provision over a five- to ten-year horizon.