More universities will charge maximum tuition fees than expected, leaving the government in a loans funding crisis, a report published today has revealed

So far 60 out of 124 higher education institutions in England have said they intend to charge the highest fees of £9000 per year from 2012, which is three times the current maximum.

The Guardian reported that 105 universities had declared their fees, which average £8765, while the government modelled its plans on an average fee of £7500.

Ministers underestimated the number of universities that were hiking fees and as a result, the government, which fund student loans to cover the fees, will face a shortfall of “several hundred million pounds”, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

It warned the funding gap could lead to further cuts in higher education and more taxpayers’ money being spent on encouraging students from poorer backgrounds to apply.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP, said: “At present, more universities intend to charge higher fees than the Department for Business, Education and Skills had expected.

“If the universities’ plans to widen participation are approved by the Office for Fair Access, this will leave a substantial funding gap which will either require further cuts in higher education or further resources from the Treasury.”

She said it was unclear whether the fees would deter people from applying for places but called for more information to enable students to make up their minds.

“Given that students will be required to spend more money on their own higher education, they will have to be able to make an informed choice about value for money offered by different institutions,” she added.

The PAC report also called for more powers for the Higher Education Funding Council for England to better regulate universities when the new fees are introduced.

The PAC report comes a day after the launch of the new College of Humanities, set up in London by academics including AC Grayling, which plans to charge fees of £18,000.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, denounced the initiative and said it was evidence that government funding plans would “entrench inequality” in the sector.

“Instead of looking to create a market within the university sector, the government should be focusing on providing opportunities for all not just a select few,” she said.