Universities will be forced to impose dramatic increases in tuition fees simply to maintain current teaching standards, the University of Warwick has warned.
Students could pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees from 2012, three times the current amount, ministers have confirmed.
But Warwick University warned it would be forced to impose a dramatic increase in fees to make up for cuts in Government funding.
Ministers announced that teaching funding is to fall from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion, a 40 per cent reduction, as part of the package of cuts set out by George Osborne, the Chancellor, in the Government’s spending review.
They have also promised that funding will be maintained for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, subjects where industry is crying out for more graduates. But this will mean cuts in funding for other courses will be even greater. It means universities will need to dramatically increase the fees they charge in order to make up for lost income. Almost all currently charge the maximum allowed figure of £3,290 a year.
However, universities which believe they are currently underfunded had been depending on fees to allow them to increase their income and ensure they remain competitive with rival institutions in other countries.
Peter Dunn, head of communications at Warwick University, said: “We know that the spending review will cut our teaching budget in a big way. It may not be so bad for universities specialising in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"For those specialising in the arts, it will be far worse. We are half and half. What we are still waiting to learn is exactly how much our teaching budget will be cut by. But every university will be in the position where they need to increase fees in order to tread water.”
Warwick currently receives an average of £4,500 per student but this could be cut by up to 80 per cent, he said.
“There is speculation that fees of £6,000 or £7,000 could become common across the Higher Education sector,” he added.
David Tidmarsh, vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University, said: “Every university will need to consider carefully what fees it needs to charge in order to cover its costs and provide a good quality education to its students.
“We will ensure that our proposed tuition fee levels are published in good time to inform applicants planning their admission choices for entry in September 2012.”
Liberal Democrats will face constant taunts by Labour in the run-up to a Commons vote on the new fees system, after many of them pledged before the general election to vote against any increase in fees.
Those who signed the National Union of Students pledge include John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley). But he said he felt able to vote for the Government’s system as it was a new funding system and not simply an increase in fees.
He said: “The two things I was pressing for as part of the funding of student tuition have been announced. The first of these was to make the scheme more progressive so that those graduates who earn quite a lot more pay more than those who earn more than average.
"The second was to have some system whereby those who wish to pay upfront pay a premium and participate in burden sharing on an equitable basis.”