Dana B. Hamel, the controversial former head of Virginia's community college system, was embroiled in a new dispute yesterday following allegations that he apparently plagiarized extensive portions of his doctoral disseration.

The accusation, made in a copyrighted article by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, caused immediate concern at the University of Cincinnati, where Hamel recevied a doctor of education degree in 1962.

"We need to take a look at it," said Hendrik D. Gideonse, dean of the university's College of Education. "What you're talking about here is somebody's career and a very serious allegation."

Hamel, 56, could not be reached yesterday for comment. He agreed two months ago to step down as chancellor of the community college system amid widening complaints of financial mismanagement. Hamel, who had headed the system since it was created in 1966, currently is working as a $51,000-a-year consultant to the system.

The new controversy centers on a dissertation Hamel wrote in 1962 about the history of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, a small technical school in Cincinnati founded in 1828. At the time of his dissertation, Hamel was executive vice president of the school, then known as the Ohio Center of Applied Science and Ohio Mechanics Institute. It later merged with the University of Cincinnati.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that passages on 35 pages of Hamel's 133-page text seem to draw heavily from two 19th-century histories of the school without footnotes or other attribution. The passages, the newspaper said, appear to be taken from an 1853 history of the school, written by its corresponding secretary, and a 50th anniversary work, published in 1878.

The Times-Dispatch quoted Hamel as defending his dissertation by arguing that the two 19th Century studies on which he relied were cited in his bibliography. He was quoted as saying, nevertheless, that he could "understand how somebody who is steeped very deep in original research could question" the absence of footnotes.

He also was reported to have said The Times-Dispatch story might ruin his career. If he were found to have engaged in plagiarism, he was quoted as saying, "I am done; I don't know who would hire me for anything."

Gideonse said in a telephone interview that he plans to examine Hamel's dissertation and the two 19th Century works to determine whether a formal University of Cincinnati inquiry is warranted. If so, he said, he would set up a faculty committee to conduct the investigation. A finding of plagiarism, Gideonse said, could result in some form of censure or possibly revocation of a degree.

Virginia officials reacted cautiously to the new allegations about Hamel. Gov. John N. Dalton, asked about the report during a news conference, said he planned no immediate action and did not believe it would be "appropriate for me to prejudge" what steps the University of Cincinnati might take.

Bernard J. Haggerty, chairman of the State Board for Community Colleges, talked yesterday with Hamel and with several board members and said later, "Our position is that this is a matter between Dr. Hamel and the University of Cincinnati, and we would await any action that they may take."