Only two universities and one independent school have applied to become academy sponsors since September 2013.
The government is relying on these two key sectors to help it “expand radically the number of good school places available to all families”, according to a consultation that also seeks to introduce new grammars.
Education consultant Robert Hill said that a number of universities and independent schools “had their fingers burned” trying to turn round struggling schools and run university technical colleges.
The consultation argues that, in return for charging higher fees, universities should “establish a new school in the state system” or “sponsor an academy in the state system”.
Universities UK said that just over half its members were “already engaged in some sort of sponsorship activity”.
Rather than focusing purely on full sponsorship, many had different relationships that ranged from outreach work to establishing a new school, and some specialist universities were “too small for full school sponsorship to be feasible”, a spokesman added.
The consultation also calls on independent schools to either sponsor academies, set up a new free schools or offer a certain proportion of fully funded places for pupils who are unable to pay fees.
Asked why so few independent schools had applied to become sponsors, Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, told TES that they “lack the capacity to do this specialised job”, and were “fully engaged in terms of their capacity with an existing sponsorship or with other non-sponsorship forms of independentstate partnership”.
He added that, in 2012, the government said the schools were not expected to sponsor academies, “especially if we were engaged in alternative worthwhile forms of partnership”.
While independent schools “lack the expertise or resources to successfully sponsor academies on their own”, Mr Lenon said they that were prepared to do so in partnership with established sponsors.