The Bishop of Winchester has warned that making any cuts to university funding could have a detrimental effect on social mobility.
Speaking this week in the House of Lords, the Right Reverend Tim Dakin said higher education risked becoming a "private good, affordable to a few".
Bishop Dakin, who is also the Church of England's spokesman on Higher Education, said threats to university funding risked limiting access for some students.
He urged the Government to keep up public investment in universities and preserve it as a public good that serves the common good of society.
The bishop defended universities as generators of economic benefit but also institutions of high quality research and teaching.
He raised particular concern about the impact of cuts on schemes such as Access to Learning that are designed to broaden participation in higher education.
"The Cathedrals Group of universities makes a significant contribution to the widening participating agenda...with approximately 48 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in each year group accepting a place at university," he said.
"The Anglican universities have played their part in achieving this target and ensuring that young people from all backgrounds can participate in higher education."
The bishop questioned whether privatisation was the right route to take.
"The privatisation and marketisation of the university may well solve some issues, but could raise many more problems," he said.
"It is essential that national governments remain committed to investing in tertiary education. Universities are essential public institutions: a public good for the common good."