One primary head had to take a pound;10,000 pay cut to join an education department, according to a Universities Council for the Education of Teachers survey.
Recruiting headteachers to lecture on leadership courses is also becoming more difficult because many now earn more than professors.
Some teacher trainers fear universities could shut down education departments. Many are already in the red because teacher training courses last longer, cost more and have a heavier inspection regime than other university courses.
Peter Gilroy, UCET's chairman, said: "There is a growing staffing problem that cannot be ignored much longer without having a serious impact on government policies for teacher education."
The survey, based on responses from 45 institutions, show most are still managing to fill teaching posts with good quality candidates.
But, with fewer people applying, around a quarter had to re-advertise teaching posts, and more use was made of temporary and short-term contracts and secondments. Almost all respondents cited the pay differential between schools and universities as the key factor in recruitment problems, exacerbated by the ageing profile of current staff.
Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted last month that university lecturers were "probably the worst-paid workers in the public sector".
Unions are hoping the Government's imminent HE review will produce more cash to increase pay.
A Teacher Training Agency spokesman said it was aware of concerns about underfunding and staffing, and that it was vital universities were able to recruit top-quality staff. The agency is consulting on additional funding for London providers.