OXFORD and Cambridge universities may have won their battle to keep much of the additional Pounds 35 million they receive through college fees.
Cambridge vice chancellor Alex Broers said this week: "Discussions with the government are leading us to conclude that they appreciate our excellence and they want to preserve that."
The two universities continued their fight to keep the fees this week with the publication of their responses to Dearing. Both mounted strong defences of their institutions and demanded the money to pay for them.
In its submission Cambridge warns it may be forced to go private if it loses college fees, and insists that it has the right to set and charge its own fees above the Pounds 1,000 means-tested tuition fee to be introduced nationally next year.
But Professor Broers said of privatisation: "There is a very small possibility we'll get to that."
Education secretary David Blunkett has threatened legislation to prevent institutions charging their own fees. The Cambridge submission says "such legislation would be a highly illiberal interference in the autonomy of institutions".
Oxford University argues in its submission that if, as Dearing recommends, funding increasingly follows the student so that the balance shifts from grant to fees, "different institutions should be allowed to charge their own fees at a level appropriate to the courses they offer, subject to safeguarding access (eg through scholarships)."
It states: "A number of the country's universities are of high international standing and if they are to retain their position may need resources greater than universities whose missions are different."
The two universities call for a more streamlined quality process, but not at the expense of institutional autonomy.
Dearing submissions, page 6