Oxford and Cambridge have threatened to stop training teachers amid a backlash to the Government’s "Stalinist" plans to change courses.

Both universities issued statements saying they would consider axing their courses if the Department for Education (DfE) presses ahead with its proposed overhaul of initial teacher training.

This week the DfE announced proposals to launch a new accreditation system for all initial teacher training providers as well as publish new quality requirements that all courses would need to conform to.

The move prompted a backlash from universities, which said the Government’s course requirements would "lower standards".

Lord Jim Knight, a former education minister in Tony Blair’s Government, told The Telegraph: "It feels more like they want to have a tighter central control on what quality teaching looks like."

He said that if the Government forge ahead with their planned changes, there is a "real risk" that the best universities will withdraw their teacher training courses because "their academic freedoms are being impinged on".  

Teacher training review

Likening the state-controlled teacher training syllabus to something out of a "Stalinist regime", he added: "It really feels like an Orwellian nightmare with a centralised state dictating how teachers should think."  

Cambridge University said it "cannot in all good faith accept or offer aspiring teachers a programme that would lower standards in this way".

A spokesman added: "These recommendations would compromise the essential characteristics of programmes such as ours, which are already producing outstanding teachers, year after year.”

They said that if these proposals were implemented, "with great regret we would see little option but to review the viability of Initial Teacher Education at the University of Cambridge".

Oxford University issued a similar statement, saying that the DfE’s plans "threaten the future viability of programmes such as the Oxford [Postgraduate Certificate in Education]".

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, which is made up of 24 universities in the UK, including Cambridge and Oxford, said he is concerned that proposals will have "unintended consequences" on high-quality teaching, adding that they could "pose a risk to university involvement in initial teacher training".  

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said the proposals are aimed at driving up standards for teachers.