Birmingham MP John Hemming has admitted he is ready to vote in favour of doubling student fees - despite signing a pre-election pledge to vote against any increase.
But the Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley insisted he was not breaking his promise, after Ministers announced plans to let universities increase tuition fees from the current limit of £3,290 a year up to £7,000.
He said the proposals were fairer than the existing system because graduates would not need to start paying fees back until they were earning at least £21,000, up from £15,000 today.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition faces its first major test after Business Secretary Vince Cable announced plans for a radical reform of student finance.
Lib Dem MPs including Mr Hemming and Solihull MP Lorely Burt both signed a pledge organised by the National Union of Students saying: “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next Parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”.
But they are now expected either to support the plan, or to abstain in the vote.
Mr Hemming said he was not yet ready to back the Government’s proposals, but said they were “not far off” a scheme he could vote for.
The new scheme would be a “progressive graduate contribution” rather than traditional tuition fees, he said.
But Dr Cable, a Liberal Democrat who also signed the pledge, told the Commons he was willing to break it.
He said: “Under current economic circumstances we cannot implement that.
“We are not in an ideal world. We are in a world where we inherited a massive financial mess.”
Ms Burt was not available for comment last night.
The Government has accepted most of the recommendations in a long-awaited review by former BP boss Lord Browne of Madingley which called said there should be “no single fixed price for higher education” because all universities are different and provide different courses.
“Different courses will cost different amounts,” the report said.
“Institutions will have to persuade students that the charges they put on their courses represent value for money.”
David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, was one of the members of Lord Browne’s team who helped draw up the proposals.
He said: “The proposals offer a very good deal for students and a fair and progressive way forward.
“If the recommendations are adopted by government no-one will pay fees up front. Graduates, not students, make a contribution to the cost of their higher education, and they will only do so when they are in work and can afford it.”