Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin has told the federal government that the state will not accept federally imposed goals or "quotas" to regulate the process of desegregating state supported colleges.

Such a move, Godwin declared, would be tantamount to surrendering "to the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Health. Education and Welfare, responsibility for administration of Virginia's state supported colleges and universities" - a step he declared he is unwilling to take.

Godwin's position, contained in document released by aides here today, conflicts with a July 5 directive by HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr.

In that document, HEW released detailed guidelines for the desegregation of colleges in Virginia and five other states and set forth specific goals and timetables by which the process was to be accomplished.

States refusing to comply potentially face loss of millions of dollars in federal aid to higher education. The total for Virginia, including a wide variety of grants to instructors as well as schools, was not available today.

Under rules of the briefing at which the correspondence between Godwin and HEW was released, no one could be quoted by name, but a spokesman denied the governor was on a confrontation course with HEW.

"We are not inviting a lawsuit. We hope to avoid one," the spokesman said. Califano's July 5 guidelines, he said, "contain a series of specific requirements, which they call numerical goals and which we call quotas. We're rejecting all of the quotas."

Among the HEW requirements are such provisions that equally proportionate numbers of white and black high school graduates in a state enter college, that the proportion of black and white faculty and administrators be equalized and that predominantly black colleges begin to enroll specific numbers of whites.

While asserting that Virginia is committed to "eual opportunity in high education" and declaring that the state has made substantial desegregation progress in the last few years. Godwin nevertheless argued he could not permit federal participation in the process.

Release of Godwin's correspondence today came as the latest development in a marathon of litigation that began in 1970 when the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sued HEW seeking to compel the agency to enforce college desegregation in Virginia, Maryland and eight other states.

Since the inception of that lawsuit, Maryland and two other states, Mississippi and Louisiana, have become involved in separate litigation with HEW, Pennsylvania is negotiating an agreement, and Virginia. Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma face Califano's July 5 directive.

In responding to that directive, Godwin submitted what his aides admitted was, in substance, the same document as a 1974 desegregation plan for Virginia colleges - a document the federal agency has since disapproved.

That plan, officials maintain, reflects principles of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in higher education to which the state is committed but it avoids commitment to specific numerical goals, or as Godwin calls them, "quotas."

In his report to David S. Tatel, directory of HEW's Office of Civil Rights, Godwin also argued in favor of preserving the state's two predominantly black colleges, Norfolk State and Virginia State, a position that has been endorsed by many black students and educators. Together the two schools enroll 10,590 of the 17,903 black students in the Virginia state-supported colleges.

Citing tables of statistics, Godwin also argued that Virginia is now in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the act under which the original lawsuit was brought.

Among the data cited by the governor were an increase in black enrollment at predominantly white schools in the last year from 3.7 per cent of the total to 4.4 per cent of the total and an increase in total black undergraduate enrollment in the last year of 13.9 per cent of 16 per cent. Virginia's population is about 18.5 per cent black.

The governor argued that the way to achieve the quotas suggested by HEW would be to lower academic standards for admissions and appointments and said there is no evidence now that academic standards are racially biased.

Under terms of HEW's July 5 directive, the federal government has 120 days in which to respond to the governor's position. This could put the federal response well after the November election and into the waning days of the governor's term, leaving the matter in the lap of his successor.