Academics plan degree courses, lectures for hundreds of students, major conferences and multimillion-pound research projects but it seems they are not trusted to book their own teaching rooms.
University estate managers think that academics waste too much space when left to their own devices. They are calling for centrally timetabled booking systems for all lecture halls, seminar rooms and other teaching spaces.
The plea follows publication of a batch of reports from the Higher Education Space Management Group, which estimates that inefficient use of space costs universities hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
The reports show that in many universities there are rooms and lecture theatres that are used only about a quarter of the time during which they are available.
A spokesman for the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which part funds the group, said research showed that academics sometimes booked space "just in case they need it".
Bob Wilson, estates director at Warwick University and a member of the space management group, said: "It's money that could be spent on improving the estate or recruiting more staff, rather than being wasted on empty rooms."
Robert Sladdin, estates director at Leeds University, which is planning to bring all its space under central management by 2008-09, said: "If you are running a centrally timetabled system it means compromises must be made to meet everyone's needs."
Anne Marie Greene, president of the University and College Union at Warwick, said: "I would hope to see a good pedagogic rationale for any changes, rather than it just being about saving money."