Teacher-training chiefs want to raise the A-level results of students joining courses by almost three grades in a bid to raise the quality of the profession.
Anthea Millett, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, says colleges and universities must not repeat the mistakes of the 1980s recruitment shortage.
"It is vital that, as we teeter on the edge of potentially serious teacher recruitment problems, we do not lose our nerve and tumble into reduced entry standards," she told a TES-sponsored seminar at Keele University.
The TTA is to talk to providers about how it can help raise the standards of applicants. But the agency was accused of being simplistic by universities, who said that A-level scores did not always indicate degree results accurately.
The recruitment crisis has had relatively little impact on undergraduate courses, as opposed to postgraduate certificates. Most are for primary or secondary PE teaching, and are largely over-subscribed.
But there is widespread concern at the poor A-levels of those joining such courses, and that teacher-training is viewed as a fallback option by sixth-formers.
The Government and TTA rejected a demand by the education select committee earlier this year that 3Cs be the minimum teacher-training requirement. But the TTA wants the average point score of entrants by 2002 to rise from the present 13.3 - lower than 2Cs and an E - to that for all university courses, currently 18.6 or better than 3Cs.
The teacher shortage of the 1980s - "If people were just about warm they were accepted," says Jane Benham, the TTA's head of recruitment - is blamed for the current lack of suitable candidates for middle-management posts.
Mary Russell, secretary to the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said many applicants now had GNVQs or HNDs or came via access courses.