How much? University leader predicts £20,000 tuition fees for students

Financially struggling universities with a "high brand value" could charge much more in future

Tuition fees for British students could reach as much as £20,000, a university vice-chancellor has warned.

Prof Nick Petford warned that universities will face additional face economic pressures as student numbers increase, which could force them to increase home students’ fees.

Student tuition is presently capped at £9,000 for British school-leavers.

The news comes as a Universities UK report, published yesterday, claims that universities are facing significant funding difficulties as more students apply.

Speaking to the Times Higher Education Prof Petford, the vice-chancellor of Northampton University, said that some universities "with high brand value will be able to charge £17,000, £18,000 or £20,000 in the future.

"I am sure of that."

The president of the National Union of Students (NUS) Toni Pearce said: “The suggestion that tuition fees should be charged at this level shows just how astonishingly out of touch some university vice-chancellors can be."

Prof Petford argued there will be a change in how universities view home students – suggesting they will be treated more like international students.

“If you look at international students, that’s been a pretty much unregulated market since we’ve been recruiting overseas students. Universities have always been used to this sort of behaviour.” He said.

“The big step change now is thinking about home students in this way.”

There is presently no cap on fees universities can charge international students.

Some reports indicate just under 100,000 new university places will be needed in the next 20 years.

The president of Universities UK, Christopher Snowden, said that his report demonstrated universities needed more funding to maintain their current standards

“The rise in tuition fees in England did not give all universities extra money – it replaced substantial cuts in direct government funding,” he said.

However, a spokesperson for the Business, Innovation and Skills department insisted that the current £9,000 fee limit allows universities to “continue to deliver high quality teaching”.

Profr Petford is not the first university leader to claim the £9,000 fee cap will need to rise as universities struggle financially.

Oxford’s vice-chancellor has also questioned whether £9,000 fees are sufficient for many universities’ needs, saying he would like to be able to charge up to £16,000.