Few universities will charge the maximum £3,000 fee for all courses, Charles Clarke told MPs yesterday afternoon.
The Secretary of State for Education dismissed claims by university vice-chancellors that every university would charge the maximum top-up fee.
He told the Commons education select committee: "I don't think it is right to say that the overall majority of courses will be charged at the £3,000 level.
"Just about every university will have some courses at £3,000, and there will be almost no university where almost all courses will be charged at the £3,000 level."
Mr Clarke added that a second of the country's elite Russell Group of universities - which represents the top 19 research institutions in the country - is expected to announce soon that it will give bursaries of up to £4,000 per year to students from the poorest homes.
Just before Christmas, Cambridge University announced a bursaries package, which would mean the least well-off getting total support of up to £6,700 a year including government grants. "I think this is an excellent package," Mr Clarke said.
He confirmed that a discussion document to be published on Monday would hold out the carrot of increasing student grants to £2,700 a year - made up of the £1,500-a-year grant announced last Thursday, plus the £1,200 fees subsidy for poorer students.
He also warned that if MPs voted down the Government's package, it would mean up-front tuition fees of £1,125-a-year staying and no student grants.Reuse content