Top West Midlands universities have warned the Government not to cut student tuition fees unless it is prepared to give them more money from elsewhere.
Warwick University said cutting fees could mean cutting the amount of teaching and research that universities carry out - unless the Government provided replacement funding.
And the head of Aston University in Birmingham has warned that the people who would gain from cutting fees are richer graduates.
What is the Government doing?
Prime Minister Theresa May promised to make student funding fairer, as she announced plans for a review of post-18 education.
The wide-ranging review will focus on four areas:
Helping people make better choices about the different options available after. This could include more information about the earning potential of different jobs and what different qualifications are needed to get them. In practice, this seems to mean ensuring people understand they don’t need to go to university to get a good job.
Looking at how students and graduates contribute to the cost of their studies, to ensure funding arrangements across post-18 education do not stop people from going to university receiving training. This could include encouraging universities to offer cheaper fees for some courses.
Examining how students from lower-income families receive financial support from the government, universities and colleges. This could mean re-introducing grants for some students, after they were replaced with loans in 2016.
Making sure the UK has a post-18 education system that is providing the skills that employers need.
But Mrs May ruled out scrapping fees entirely.
Why is this happening?
It follows claims that the current system is unfair. Students can pay tuition fees of up to £9,250 a year for a university course typically lasting three years.
Fees only need to be repaid once graduates are earning £25,000 or more. This cap was increased last year by the Government from £21,000.
But there is still concern that students are leaving university which huge debts.
Think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last year that students from the poorest 40% of families would end a three-year degree with an average debt of around £57,000.
Critics also argue that the interest rate on tuition fee loans is far too high, at 6.1%.
Politically, the Conservatives are worried that student fees are making it harder to win support among young voters.
Labour has promised to axe tuition fees entirely, and this was seen as one of the reasons that Jeremy Corbyn’s party did so well among younger voters in last year’s general election.
What do the universities say?
University teaching is already subsidised. According to Universities UK, around half the cost of teaching is paid for from fees, around a fifth is funded by the Government and the rest comes from other sources including fees paid by non-EU students.
Warwick University spokesman Peter Dunn said: “Fees were introduce to replace Government money for teaching. Money was taken away.
“So universities haven’t benefited from fees. It was to replace money they had previously.
“If any party decides to change the fee structure in any way, then universities are going to be looking to them to replace the funding.
“Universities do not have shareholders. They do not make a profit. All the money they get in is spent on research and teaching.
“If we have less money for research and teaching, there will be less research and teaching.”
Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor of Aston University, said in advance of the Prime Minister’s statement that cutting fees could be “regressive” because it is likely to benefit only the wealthiest graduates.
This is because only the most wealthy graduates actually repay their fees in full anyway.
But he told an audience at the House of Commons interest rates should be cut.
What did Mrs May say?
In her speech, the Prime Minister suggested it was wrong that nearly all universities charge the full £9,250-a-year fee for every course.
She seemed to suggest that some courses should be more expensive than others.
She said: “All but a handful of universities charge the maximum possible fees for undergraduate courses.
“Three-year courses remain the norm.
“And the level of fees charged do not relate to the cost or quality of the course.
“We now have one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world.
“We have already begun to take action to address some of these concerns. We scrapped the increase in fees that was due this year, and we have increased the amount graduates can earn before they start repaying their fees to £25,000.
“The review will now look at the whole question of how students and graduates contribute to the cost of their studies including the level, terms and duration of their contribution.”
What do other politicians say?
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to the Prime Minister’s speech launching a new education review, said: “Theresa May has finally admitted that her Government got it wrong.
"They trebled tuition fees, abolished maintenance grants and left students graduating with debts of up to £57,000.
“This long-winded review is an unnecessary waste of time. Labour will abolish tuition fees, bring back maintenance grants and provide free, lifelong education in Further Education colleges.”