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Cable urges tuition fees restraint

Business Secretary Vince Cable is to warn universities that they could "find themselves in trouble" if they insist on imposing the maximum permitted tuition fees.

Mr Cable, who is responsible for higher education, will say that institutions which try to charge the £9,000-a-year top rate could face difficulties if students do not believe their courses are worth it.

His comments come after the University of Leicester became the latest institution to announce it will charge students the top rate from next year.

In a speech to a higher education funding conference in Birmingham, Mr Cable is expected to say: "The biggest mistake a university could make is to underestimate its consumers. Students will search for value for money and compare the offers of different universities.

"Under the new principle whereby funding follows student choices, some institutions could find themselves in trouble if students can't see value.

"That trouble would only intensify as those institutions who prove themselves capable of attracting students and keen to expand their provision are given opportunities to do so."

In total, 30 universities have already declared their intended fee levels for next year, with the majority planning to charge £9,000.

Those planning to charge the maximum are Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London, Manchester, Warwick, Essex, Leeds, Durham, Lancaster, Bath, Birmingham, Loughborough, Exeter, Sussex, Surrey, Liverpool, Aston, Liverpool John Moores, Reading, Kent, Central Lancashire and Leicester.

All universities planning to charge more than £6,000 will have to have their fees approved by the Office for Fair Access (Offa), and sign access agreements showing how they plan to ensure poorer students are not priced out.

MPs voted to raise tuition fees to £6,000 from 2012 at the end of last year, with institutions allowed to charge up to £9,000 only in "exceptional circumstances".

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