The planned rise in university tuition fees to £9,250 could also be applied to students who have already started their courses.
In a statement, Universities Minister Jo Johnson revealed the plans to link higher tuition fees to teaching quality and allow the cost to increase with the rate of inflation in subsequent years.
The plans were met with strong opposition by other political parties, with the Liberal Democrats announcing that they planned to force a parliamentary vote on the issue in autumn in attempt to stop fees rising above the current £9,000 limit.
Labour Education Spokesman Gordon Marsden told the BBC that the government had made a ‘disgraceful’ attempt to ‘sneak out’ the increase before Parliament’s summer recess, and that ministers had ‘neither the guts nor the courtesy’ to fully debate the issue.
The government has already said that the fee increases can be applied to students who have already started their study depending on the terms of student contracts at individual universities.
A University of Southampton spokesperson told Wessex Scene that the University would ‘keep a watch’ on the situation until it had completed the relevant parliamentary processes, and that even after a change in legislation any adjustments to fees would still have to be approved by the University Council.
The tuition fees section of the University website currently says that 2017 fees will be added ‘later this year’.
The issue has raised concerns among Sabbatical Officers. Union Southampton President, Alex Hovden, told Wessex Scene:
We are deeply concerned by the possibility of Tuition Fee rises, and are awaiting further information. From my personal point of view, I cannot envisage myself supporting a rise in the fee. The full time officers are working on finding out more information and will be seeking approval from Union Senate on a stance in the new academic year.
The University of Surrey has already announced that it will not increase fees for current undergraduates but increases will apply for students enrolling from 2017 onwards. A number of other universities including Durham and Royal Holloway are already advertising the fee increases for prospective future students subject to government confirmation.
The University of Kent told the National Student it was advertising the higher fees online to ensure that ensure that ‘both potential students and existing students are provided with as much notice as possible and to comply with CMA guidelines’, while Durham University said that it had received confirmation from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills before updating its website.
Higher Education organisations including the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have condemned the increase.
An NUS Spokesperson told the Telegraph:
Institutions who are thinking of raising fees for current students would be breaking consumer protection legislation, as this is not what was advertised at the point of entry, and we will support any student who wishes to take matters to court.
Sally Hunt, Director of the UCU (the union to which many lecturers and teaching staff are affiliated), condemned the advertisement of fee increases as ‘just another blight on the sorry debacle that is the government’s plan for higher education’ and called for the government to rethink current higher education policy plans in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
She claimed that:
Universities foolish enough to advertise higher fees will be doing nothing to quell concerns from students and parents that they are simply after as much cash as they can get.
However, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK (the umbrella body controlling some aspects of policy at all UK public universities), added that the current rate of £9,000 a year had been ‘eroded’ by inflation and was now only worth around £8,200 in real terms. She told the BBC the increase in fees was ‘essential’ to deliver a high quality learning experience for students.