MOST universities have to decide this month whether to include a disclaimer in their 1998 prospectuses warning that fees could be introduced.
Advice issued last month to the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals said that universities which later introduced fees without such a disclaimer could leave themselves open to legal action.
While most would prefer to wait for rivals to jump first, printing deadlines have forced many into taking a position.
Newcastle has decided its prospectus will include some kind of warning. "As we haven't ruled it out as an option we feel we should include something," said Christopher Harris, head of communications. "But that doesn't mean it is any more than a remote possibility."
Southampton will also be including a fees disclaimer. The London School of Economics is deciding whether fees will be introduced and agreed on a disclaimer last month.
Warwick has gone for the "wait and see" route. A spokesman said: "There has been no decision yet and no one is even mooting it at the moment but who knows?" Bristol has done the same. It has prepared one version of its prospectus with the disclaimer and one without.
Huddersfield, the first new university to mention top-up fees, has not dared to repeat the embarrassing experience. Its prospectus will not be including a disclaimer.
Leeds decided in December against including the clause. Manchester has decided the same, as has UMIST.
Birmingham, which has been hotly tipped to be a front-runner in the introduction of fees, effectively ruled it out for 1998 when last week's meeting of the university council decided to defer consideration of the issue.