Universities try to avoid 'Ratner' tag by insisting on £7,500 tuition fees

Not a single university has so far come up with a proposal to charge tuition fees of less than £7,500 a year – the figure ministers hoped would be the average, and the benchmark they subsequently budgeted for.

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: "No one wants to be known as the 'Ratner' university – offering a cheap education."

The charges pose an awkward dilemma for ministers, who have said universities will face further cuts if the average figure for fees is higher than £7,500 – the sum the Treasury has budgeted for when determining how much to allocate to student loans.

Figures obtained by Labour show the cuts would range from an extra £50m if the average annual fee was £7,600 to £770m if all universities charged £9,000.

Gareth Thomas, Labour's Higher Education spokesman, said: "The Government repeatedly promised that fees over £6,000 would be the exception but it is increasingly clear that they're powerless to stop most universities charging closer to £9,000."

Details of the potential fee levels emerged from consultations between students and universities taking place in the vast majority of England's 130 higher education institutions. They cover a wide range, from those in the elite Russell Group of leading research institutions to the former polytechnics. About seven out of 10 universities are said to be planning to charge the maximum fees for every course. Some students claim there must have been collusion between the universities for so many to have settled on this plan, which would be illegal under fair trading legislation.

However, Mr Porter said: "I haven't seen any evidence of it and if I did I would report it to the Office of Fair Trading." But he added that he found it "difficult" to believe there had not been some conversations about fee levels.

"I find it practically very difficult to see how certain groups of institutions wouldn't find out what other institutions in the same group are charging," he said.

So far Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London have opted to charge the maximum £9,000 – as has Exeter, the first non-Russell Group university to do so. It is likely to be followed by many others. Oxford finalised its plans on Monday night.

Liverpool John Moores University has indicated that it will not be charging the maximum.

Ministers will not be able to look to the Office for Fair Access, the admissions watchdog, to bail them out. Sir Martin Harris, its director general, has made it clear that he cannot stop universities charging £9,000 a year if they have come up with an adequate proposal to encourage disadvantaged young people to take up places.

However, his final decision on their submissions will not be made until June, after many of this year's lower sixth forms have already begun the process of applying for university.

As a result, UCAS says it will not be able to give students details of the fees charged for their courses when they first post them online.

* Universities will be told today of how the cuts in spending will affect their budgets next year. The Higher Eduction Funding Council has already indicated that nationally they face a £300m cut in their teaching budgets and £100m lopped off research.

Oxbridge discounts

Oxford and Cambridge are to offer cut-price degrees for Britain's poorest young people.

Students at Oxford from families on a combined income of £16,000 a year will be given a £5,500 waiver in their first year, paying £3,500. Thereafter, fees will rise to £6,000 a year. Students whose family income is between £16,000 and £25,000 a year will pay fees of £6,000 to £8,000.

Oxford will also offer first-year students bursaries of up to £4,300 to help with accommodation so they will not be forced to work to pay living costs.

Cambridge has also offered a fees waiver of £3,500 as an alternative to its existing bursary scheme, while the poorest students will be offered a further waiver of £6,000.

Both universities intend to charge £9,000 a year to all other students.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Cover Supervisor for school in Leeds

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education are looking fo...

BTEC / A Level Business StudiesTeacher (Full time)

£100 - £160 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: BTEC and...

Maths Intervention / Learning Mentor

£60 - £80 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: We are loo...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London