Leeds university could drop its postgraduate certificate in education for arts and humanities subjects, accounting for more than 200 new teachers each year, to make savings. The decision would affect shortage subjects including music, drama and religious education.
It is the latest in a series of disputes over the funding of training. Last month The TES revealed Exeter university was making six staff redundant and closing one of its three postgraduate courses to save money. A study, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills last year, revealed trainee teachers attract about pound;1,000 per year less each than they cost universities.
Keith Bothamley, head of teacher training at Leeds, said the proposals were in their early stages. But he said that the university, one of 15 higher education institutions to take part in the DfES study, had to subsidise its trainees by as much as 20 per cent.
Secondary courses under threat include art and design, drama, music, design and technology, geography, history and RE.
The cuts, which would take effect from September 2006, would not hit primary PGCE and other secondary courses, including biology, chemistry, physics, English, maths and languages.
More than 200 students due to start arts and humanities courses this September would also be unaffected.
One teacher, who asked not to be named, said: "We are all stunned. Schools in this area are already struggling to recruit teachers in some of these subjects and this will have a potentially massive knock-on effect."
In a report released yesterday, Ofsted praised the quality of the university's secondary teacher training courses.
It said trainees were well scrutinised before enrolling, students received thorough guidance and partnerships with schools were strong.
Sarah Page, 22, who is about to finish a year-long PGCE in drama at the university, said: "There is a huge shortage of drama teachers. Some schools do not even have specialists in the subjects and leave it to the PE or English departments. It would be a huge loss if the course was closed."
James Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "Schools in this country are crying out for well-trained teachers and Ofsted repeatedly praises the standard of training that teachers get in higher education institutions. It is bad news if universities are now pulling out because they cannot afford to run courses any more."
A TES poll of 43 universities in March showed that at least 60 per cent will introduce the full pound;3,000 top-up fee for students taking the PGCE, the most common route into teaching, to plug funding shortfalls.
The agency has defended its funding of teacher training. Since 200303, average funding has risen by 13.4 per cent and will continue to increase over the next two years.
In September, an extra pound;12 million will be given to the country's 134 college, university and school-based training courses, taking overall funding to pound;246 million.