Universities UK has called for the £9,000 tuition fee cap to be raised in line with inflation to ensure that institutions “can continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of students”.
The main body representing vice-chancellors has also urged the government to improve financial support for students’ living costs.
It follows the recent recommendations of the Student Funding Panel, established last year by UUK “to consider the design of the current student fees and loans system in England”.
The panel said that the £9,000 fee system was “broadly fit for purpose” and did not require “wholesale reform”, but urged maintenance support for students to be enhanced.
Janet Beer, vice-president (England and Northern Ireland) of UUK and vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said: “Financial support for students’ living costs needs to be improved.
“Evidence shows that students are more concerned about the level of maintenance support they receive while studying than they are about the long-term repayment of their student loans dependent on income.”
She added: “With the tuition fee in England for undergraduate students from the UK and the EU capped at £9,000 since 2012-13, its value is being eroded considerably by inflation.
“Allowing the value of the fee to be maintained in real terms is essential to allow universities to continue to deliver a high quality learning experience for students.”
UUK’s call comes just a day after Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, declined to rule out a rise in tuition fees or changes to student loan repayment terms when answering questions in the House of Commons.
It is also being made on the same day that Mr Johnson is expected to make his first major policy speech on higher education, during which he is expected to outline plans for a teaching excellence framework.
Professor Beer added that the changes urged by UUK “should be made now” but “must also ensure that higher education remains affordable and does not deter any under-represented groups from study”.