More universities announce maximum tuition fees
Two more universities have announced they will charge students the maximum tuition fees of £9,000 a year.
Lincoln University and Hull University join a growing list of institutions which intend to set their fees at the top level.
MPs voted to raise tuition fees to £6,000 from 2012 at the end of last year, with institutions allowed to charge up to £9,000 only in "exceptional circumstances".
But so far, most universities are clustering around the £9,000 mark, with the elite institutions leading the way.
Professor Mary Stuart, vice-chancellor of Lincoln University, said: "Lincoln is in the top quartile of all universities for student satisfaction and this decision will allow the university to continue to grow and enhance the student experience for the benefit of all of our community."
Hull vice-chancellor Professor Calie Pistorius said: "The university believes that the headline fee of £9,000 is necessary to ensure our commitment to quality of teaching and student experience, given the nature of the new policy landscape, and that the figure reflects the value of a degree from the University of Hull."
Concerns have been raised that would-be students will be put off higher education by the prospect of graduating with a large debt.
But one leading university has claimed that inquiries from students have increased. Nottingham University said it has seen a 48% increase in the number of people booking to attend its open days compared to last year.
Those planning to charge the maximum fees are Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London, Manchester, Warwick, Essex, Leeds, Durham, Lancaster, Bath, Birmingham, Loughborough, Exeter, Sussex, Surrey, Liverpool, Aston, Liverpool John Moores, Reading, Kent, Central Lancashire, Leicester, Nottingham, Oxford Brookes, City University London, Keele, the Royal Agricultural College, Sheffield, Southampton, Newcastle, University College Falmouth, Queen Mary, University of East London, Lincoln and Hull.
The Government had based its future funding of universities on the assumption that most institutions will charge £7,500.
Ministers have warned universities that if the majority set fees at or close to the maximum £9,000, then they will face cuts to funding and student places.
The initial deadline for universities wanting to charge more than £6,000 to submit proposals for access agreements to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) has now passed.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: "When the Government forced these ill-considered plans through Parliament, they claimed that fees above £6,000 would be the exception rather than the rule, but that was quite clearly a pipe dream.
"Ministers have claimed that Offa has the power to regulate fees, when in reality this process is nothing more than one of rubberstamping vice chancellors' attempts to charge as much as they can get away with. With no one to stop them, universities are rushing to charge the maximum £9,000."
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