Universities fear cuts may be compounded by fee rise veto

Universities could face a "double whammy" of swingeing spending cuts and the threat of MPs defeating moves to charge students higher fees, vice-chancellors warn today.

The prospect of MPs vetoing proposals for higher fees, which will be outlined in the Browne committee of inquiry into student finance next week, would pose a significant threat to Britain's standing in the higher education world, they add.

Standards would decline, with students having less contact time with their lecturers, says a submission by Universities UK, the umbrella body representing vice-chancellors, to the Coalition Government's comprehensive spending review.

"My biggest worry remains that the spending review will be carried out confidently in the knowledge that Lord Browne's review will introduce replacement funding for teaching," said Professor Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University and president of Universities UK, in a foreword to the report. "Yet we face the very real possibility that Lord Browne's recommendations cannot be accepted by the UK Parliament."