Vice chancellors aim to leave political parties in no doubt before the next election how they want funding reformed to guarantee the quality of British higher education.
That means spelling out what students must contribute to the cost of a university education.
Gareth Roberts, chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, outlined thinking by institutions in response to recent media criticism of degree standards.
He said funding reform, with safeguards for those on low incomes, was the only way to reverse the diminishing amount of money available for each student's education. The CVCP is considering scholarships for the very bright and needy alongside graduate contributions.
"A scheme involving a contribution by graduates once their earnings have reached a certain level seems inevitable, irrespective of which political party wins the next election," said Professor Roberts.
"I am not a betting man but I wouldn't mind betting most vice chancellors now accept that. I don't think your average vice chancellor is keen on top-up fees," he said. "Our concern is that any new system of funding must generate additional resources to the system."
He added: "During my chairmanship I want the CVCP to be much more proactive and there is no doubt ahead of the election the CVCP will be producing a very, very strong lead for the political parties."
Professor Roberts agreed the politicians seem to be ducking the issue at the moment.
"Maybe I would do the same in their shoes," he said. "It is not likely either major political party will move quickly on this before the election, they are more likely to consolidate after the election. But it is a very important issue and we will be keeping up our pressure."