Vice-chancellors are divided over whether Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, should quit her job because she has accepted a life peerage and the Labour Whip.
Baroness Warwick was made a life peer last weekend. She plans to take up her place in the House of Lords next month and to stay as chief executive of the CVCP.
A majority of ten vice-chancellors contacted by The THES this week thought she should go.
Some believe that the CVCP's ability to lobby government will be hampered by her decision.
"It creates a hell of an interesting challenge," said one vice- chancellor who did not want to be named. "I would be surprised if it could be sustained in the longer term.
"If the CVCP is going to lobby for money in the next comprehensive spending review, that would be an issue that could compromise her position."
Another vice-chancellor said: "It is obviously a difficulty for the CVCP to be seen as closely connected to a political party, especially if that party is in government."
Baroness Warwick had yet to comment publicly on the reasoning behind her decision as The THES went to press. But she has the support of Martin Harris, CVCP chairman and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester.
In a confidential letter to vice-chancellors, Professor Harris wrote:
"Diana and I are confident that she and I (and my successor) can work together on any issues that arise to ensure that CVCP's interests are fully protected."
He also highlighted the advantages of the appointment: "There should be a positive benefit to the CVCP in having the chief executive in the House in direct and regular contact with other peers and members of Parliament."