The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales said it had written to all 10 higher education institutions and four further education colleges to inform them that their plans “in their current form do not meet the necessary requirements”.
Any institution in Wales that wanted to charge fees over £4,000 for home undergraduates had to submit a fee plan to Hefcw, which are similar to access agreements in England and detail how the institution intends to aid and encourage participation from poorer students.
A number of universities had proposed charging £9,000 in fees, although Welsh students would have almost two thirds of the charge covered by a non-repayable grant from the country’s devolved government.
Leighton Andrews, the Welsh education minister, who asked Hefcw to be “thorough and robust” when scrutinising fee plans, welcomed the initial decision to reject them.
“If institutions want to charge the higher fees they need to prove they are meeting our requirements to widen access for all. Clearly they are not, and I therefore welcome and support Hefcw’s decision to send them back to the drawing board,” he said.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “If Welsh universities are being told that their access agreements are not up to scratch, then that must be very worrying news for English institutions.
“English students will rack up far higher levels of debt than Welsh students. Common sense suggests English universities will need to prove that they are doing even more to mitigate students’ fears about the cost of courses and future debt.”
A spokeswoman for Hefcw said it expected to receive revised plans, taking account of the concerns raised with individual institutions, by or soon after the end of June.
It plans to announce final acceptances or rejections on 11 July, the same day the Office for Fair Access will reveal which access agreements in England have been approved.