More than a third of English universities ready to charge maximum fees

Institutions intend to demand the top annual tuition charge of £9,000 despite new rules permitting this only in 'exceptional circumstances'

Most of the country's leading universities are ready to charge the maximum £9,000 annual tuition fee from next year, shadow Business Secretary John Denham warned yesterday.

University sources reckon as many as 50 universities – just over a third of those in England – would be prepared to charge the maximum fee.

Mr Denham accused Universities Secretary David Willetts of being "two-faced" when he told MPs the maximum fee under new legislation would be charged only in "exceptional circumstances".

The Labour spokesman said the phrase had been omitted from draft guidance to the Office for Fair Access (Offa), the body that will regulate fees. Mr Denham, who has written to Sir Martin Harris, the director of Offa, asking him to clarify the position, told The Independent on Sunday: "Many universities have told me they believe they will be able to charge the £9,000 a year. To me, exceptional means only a tiny handful. It would not mean 20, 30 or 50."

If the number rose to 50, it would mean almost half the universities in England would be making the maximum charge. The figure is more than double the number of universities in the elite Russell Group – which represents 20 of the most research-intensive universities in the country, including Oxford and Cambridge. The group had been keen to have the cap on fees lifted entirely – a recommendation which was in the original report of Lord Browne's committee set up to review fee charges.

Mr Denham added: "It would seem David Willetts only mentioned the words 'exceptional circumstances' to get his legislation through the House of Commons." In his letter to Sir Martin, Mr Denham said: "The term 'exceptional circumstances' does not appear anywhere in the draft guidance and it appears that ministers have not asked you to take their public commitments into account in preparing your guidance. I understand that, under the Higher Education Act 2004, it is their guidance that you have to take into account, not other statements which ministers may or may not have made.

"In view of the widespread publicity that has been give to the idea that fees of £9,000 would only be available in exceptional circumstances, I think it is important to understand whether the Government has in any way asked you to take this aim into account."

He added that Mr Willetts had "quite deliberately misled the House of Commons when he said 'exceptional' and has done nothing to put his rhetoric into practice".

Mr Denham also wants clarification on the role of the Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, who has been appointed to an advisory post on university admissions policy.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills stressed that the letter to Sir Martin had been only draft guidance. Ministers were working on their final guidance over how he should treat applications to raise fees which should be finalised in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for Offa said it was not possible to comment on the letter.

Most universities at present are keeping their cards close to their chests over the fees they intend to charge until they see the fine print over the Government's advice to Offa. Under the Government's proposals, universities will be able to charge between £6,000 and £9,000 a year to students.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in Manchester and London yesterday against tuition fees and cuts to the education budget. In Manchester there were angry scenes as protesters broke through police lines and were chased by officers on horseback. At least 14 were arrested.

In London, a march on Parliament was largely peaceful, despite a breakaway attempt to storm Millbank Tower. One student brandished a sign saying: "Ben Ali, Mubarak... Cameron, you are next."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesBryony Beynon: This is something every woman can relate to
Arts and Entertainment
film

News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Life and Style
fashion

World Beard and Moustache Championships held last week

News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Copycat culture: the Chateau Zhang Laffitte in China, top, and the building which inspired it, in Paris, bottom
architectureReplicas of Western landmarks are springing up in unlikely places
Sport
Rolando Aarons watches as his effort finds the corner of the Manchester City goal to give Newcastle the lead
footballManchester City 0 Newcastle 2: Holders crash out on home turf
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain