Vice-chancellors are preparing to campaign for the resumption of funded higher education growth.
They are commissioning independent research to support the case for more taxpayers' money to be spent on the sector in the next comprehensive spending review round from 2002.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, which met in Cardiff this week, wants to provide the government with evidence that money allocated to universities for the next three years has been well spent and that more will be needed in the next CSR to maintain excellence in teaching and research.
CVCP officials said work towards the campaign needed to start now because the government would begin preparing for the 2002 CSR from next summer.
A spokesman said: "We feel that there will be a continuing need for new investment. The government made a start with the money it has allocated for teaching, research and IT infrastructure. But we do not regard that as the end of the story.
"With additional numbers of students coming through from further education and the University for Industry, there is likely to be pressure for further growth in the medium and longer term," he added.
The CVCP is also keen to show ministers that the sector is making efforts to account for money already invested.
"There is an increasing need to demonstrate that the government is getting a return on whatever money it is putting into the sector. We should be in a position to show, for instance, that universities have taken notice of the messages coming out of the Woodrow report on access into higher education, and have taken appropriate action," the spokesman added.
Research projects will focus on the economic impact of universities; growth in admissions to universities of students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds; and education of teachers and nurses. They will also look at teaching equipment and IT facilities in universities; research funding; the impact of student contributions on funding levels; and the funding implications of recommendations to come out of the Bett inquiry on pay.
A CVCP letter circulated to lecturers' union leaders and vice-chancellors has already warned that there is unlikely to be new money for better pay for the next three years.
CVCP chief executive Diana Warwick says in the letter that early results of the Bett inquiry show "a complex picture and do not necessarily confirm the view that there is a shortfall in academic salaries across the board".
But she acknowledges that significant funding implications are still likely.
A spokesman for Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union, said:
"If the Bett committee comes out with a clear case for more money for higher education it should put pressure on the government to provide it, even though they have said their budget is set."