The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has attacked Government plans to cut funding for foreign students who take part of their course in the United Kingdom.
The committee said the move to stop paying tuition fees for the students from EU countries was presented to them as a fait accompli. From 1997 the Government will stop paying fees for more than 1,000 students, mainly from Germany, who come to the UK as part-course students.
In a letter to the Department of Education and Employment, CVCP chief executive, Diana Warwick, said: "The decision will be seen as a petty attempt to weaken the part which UK universities play in European higher education. Any credit accorded to the department for funding the scheme on a 'voluntary' basis will certainly be lost by its brusque removal."
A CVCP spokesman said that students who moved between EU countries had always been treated the same as home students, as required by the Treaty of Rome. "It is an excessively stupid move, and could lay the Government open to challenge in the European court. Once again the Government is adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit."
But the DFEE said there was no legal requirement to pay for foreign students. A spokeswoman said: "British students do not get their fees paid if they just do part of their course. It has been a tight spending round and part course fees are a cost which the Government can no longer afford."