University leaders "do not expect" institutions to cut tuition fees or increase bursaries to fill course vacancies during clearing, it was claimed this week amid fears that some universities will offer bargain-price degrees next August.
Student leaders said that Universities UK had told them it did not expect institutions to reduce the £3,000 variable fee or offer more financial aid to applicants to fill courses during clearing.
Julian Nicholds, vice-president (education) at the National Union of Students, said: "UUK has told us it doesn't expect institutions to reduce their fees in this way. But, if there is an indication that institutions are planning reductions, UUK needs to issue guidance to its members to discourage this."
Ironically, the NUS withdrew an earlier statement to The Times Higher this week in which it suggested that UUK had pledged that universities would not discount fees or increase bursaries during clearing.
After asking the NUS to clarify the original statement, UUK said: "This is a matter for each individual institution to decide."
The university regulator, the Office for Fair Access, revealed last year that there is nothing to prevent universities reducing fees or increasing bursaries to help fill course vacancies during clearing.
So far, no university has revealed its clearing plans.
Mr Nicholds said: "It is totally unacceptable that one student could sit next to another in a lecture theatre and be paying considerably less fees for the same course."
He hinted that the union might sponsor a legal challenge if any institution proposed to cut fees in clearing.