Vice-chancellors may threaten to designate certain areas as no-go zones for the access regulator if university autonomy is threatened.
A draft of Universities UK's response to the white paper on higher education poses the questions: "What specific responsibilities should remain within institutional control and outside the remit of the access regulator? Are there particular areas which would be non-negotiable?"
Vice-chancellors will discuss their response at a UUK board meeting today. A formal response is expected next week.
The UUK draft says that any fears about the bureaucratic nature of the regulator "may need to be tempered by the recognition that deregulated fees will only gain sufficient support if they are accompanied by the safeguards offered by the access regulator."
The document also reveals other concerns. It argues that UK research is already more highly concentrated than in other major countries, including the US.
UUK firmly opposes the separation of teaching from research. It calls on government to provide evidence to support the white paper's contention that the link between research and teaching quality is indirect.
The draft is critical of the white paper's attempts to push less research-intensive universities towards local collaborations to develop acquired technology.