Limiting the numbers of private school students that can go to university could be "damaging" and leave institutions struggling to fill places courses, a Croydon head has claimed.

Universities should have "open, clear and academically fair" admissions rules, rather than policies which are "controlled by a central government diktat", according to Chris Ramsey, headmaster of all-boys Whitgift School.

His comments come after Labour announced sweeping plans for an overhaul of private education, designed to "integrate" fee-paying schools into the state sector, if it were to come to power.

One of the proposals put forward at the party's annual conference was to cap the proportion of privately educated teenagers admitted to degree courses at the proportion of youngsters who attend these schools.

Currently, around 7% of schoolchildren are educated at private schools.

However, data published by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) shows that in England, more than 15% of teenagers aged 16 and over attend an ISC school.

Speaking as the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) - which represents 296 leading private schools - met in London, Mr Ramsey said that the independence of universities in their choice and admission of students "is enshrined in legislation which is centuries old".

He added: "I would say as somebody working in education that the freedom of university admissions is incredibly important and the idea that the government would dictate the categories of people to go to university is something which I think would be extremely damaging just in terms of educationally."

Mr Ramsey went on to say: "The key point to me is the independence of universities to have an admissions policy which is open and clear and academically fair, as opposed to one which is controlled by a central government diktat."

The headmaster suggested that a cap on privately educated students could have an impact on universities, saying: "Say if you were running a university in the UK and you were suddenly told that only 7% of your intake could come from the independent sector, you'd be saying, 'I don't understand how I'm supposed to fill the university with appropriate students'."

He cited modern foreign languages, arguing that an HMC survey showed that 2,500 of privately educated, upper-sixth formers were applying for ML courses, accounting for around a fifth of the modern languages undergraduates in the country.

"So, if you just take that one subject, if the 7% thing came in, where are the modern linguists going to come from? Or are we simply going to shrink the modern languages departments in our country, it's that kind of question."

There have been some suggestions that if a cap was put in place, it could lead to top students leaving the UK in favour of universities overseas.

On this issue, Mr Ramsey said there is a "slow but steady increase" in students choosing to study abroad.

Delegates at Labour's conference approved a motion which said a commitment to "integrate" private schools into the state sector should be included in the party's next general election manifesto.

Alongside the university cap on private school students, the motion covered a proposal to withdraw charitable status and "all other public subsidies and tax privileges", including business rate exemption.

Properties and investment held by private schools would be "redistributed democratically and fairly" across the country's educational institutions as part of the reforms.

The vote in favour of the motion came after shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said a future Labour government would scrap the "tax loopholes" which benefit private schools in its first budget.

On Labour's plans, Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, has said: "Universities decide which students they admit, and this autonomy comes with a responsibility to make fair and transparent decisions.

"In England, ambitious targets set out in Access and Participation plans have contributed to 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas being more likely to go to university than ever before.

"But there is more to be done, and we will continue to review the use of contextual admissions through our review of admissions."