The draft charters aim to provide students, parents and employers with clear information about institutions and exactly what can be expected from them.
David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said institutions had to be resourced properly, otherwise staff would be made scapegoats for student complaints.
Louise Clarke, spokeswoman for the National Union of Students, said the charters failed to provide guarantees for the required services.
Ted Nield, of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said the charters seemed to be 'bland but laudable'.
But Ray Cowell, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, said the charters displayed 'nave and dated views on the nature of students'.
The charters say that students have the right to prompt payment of grants, clear and accurate information about courses, qualifications and entry requirements, as well as about how well institutions are performing.
Applicants for higher education are entitled to an efficient and fair admission system.
Institutions must be assessed regularly and independently, and universities and colleges will have to include the official summary of the Higher Education Quality Council's reports in their prospectuses.