The Government has moved to raise tuition fees by £250 without any announcement from the Department for Education (DfE).
Regulations to allow the changes, which will see fees go up to £9,250, were published earlier this week to the National Archives legislation store.
The new legislation to the changes was not announced on the DfE website or in a statement to Parliament by ministers.
The changes, which are set to affect 500,000 students, went unnoticed for days until they were reported by the BBC on Thursday evening.
Opposition politicians criticised the nature of the announcement. Shadow universities minister Gordon Marsden accused the Government of trying to “sneak out” the plans while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron described the approach as “shabby”.
He said the move was a classic case of the Government “avoiding scrutiny” for its policies.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said the measure had been trailed in the summer and that no further announcement was needed.
“Importantly, universities will not be able to increase their fees unless they have passed rigorous quality standards,” the spokesperson said.
“We are determined to make sure that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so.”
Most universities are expected to be able to charge the new higher fees, however.
Tuition fees have been set at £9,000 since 2012 but the Government has said it wants to raise them further because of inflation.
The last time fees were raised students across the country took to the streets to protest and blockade and occupy campuses.
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