Bradford College has received the "worst ever" result for a subject review.
Higher education courses in its department of teacher education were given two grade 1s by Quality Assurance Agency assessors - the first time such grades have been given in a single visit since subject reviews started.
Stunned senior officials from the college and Bradford University, which awards its degrees, asked the quality assessment team to leave before they could announce their verdict.
It is understood that the college and university have lodged objections with the QAA over the conduct of the review.
In a joint statement, the college, the university and the QAA said this week: "Bradford College, the University of Bradford and the QAA are currently in discussions regarding the subject review. All parties, therefore, feel it would be inappropriate and unhelpful to discuss the matter."
After its visit last month, the review team awarded the higher education courses in the department grade 1s signifying that "the aims and objectives set by the subject provider have not been met, and there are major shortcomings that must be rectified" - for teaching, learning and assessment, and for quality, management and enhancement. Overall, the department scored 13 out of a possible 24 points.
The department boasts a long history of teacher training and a strong international dimension. It recently added a modular BA in education studies to its provision.
Under QAA rules, it will be allowed to ask for the grades to be reconsidered. If the grades remain unchanged, the department will be revisited in a year.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has said it would consider withdrawing funding from departments that were considered unsatisfactory after a revisit.
The situation could prove embarrassing for the college and the university, which have launched a feasibility study into possible merger. The merger is being considered by Hefce and the Learning and Skills Council.
The university hopes the union could lead to the creation of a "comprehensive" university spanning further and higher education.