Helen Liddell, Scotland's new education minister, has introduced herself to the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals with a broadside against institutions charging students for tuition fee payments.
Coshep believes she has signalled that the government may outlaw administration charges with a robust two-page letter stressing that institutional grants are being phased "on the generous assumption" that student fees will only be received in February. "It is therefore incontrovertible that any earlier collection is an advantage to institutions," the letter adds.
Mrs Liddell says the government sees no case for administration charges and is to consult on the types of fees that institutions will be able to charge under the new provisions in the Teaching and Higher Education Act.
Ronald Crawford, secretary of Coshep, said: "This could be interpreted as implying that the provisions of the new act may be used to make the levy of additional administration charges unlawful.
Tory education spokesman Damian Green condemned Mrs Liddell's "bullying tone" as typical of Labour's approach to Scottish universities.
A National Union of Students spokesman said the union wanted proposed charges abolished before students arrived for the new academic year.