Two-thirds of universities are expecting to charge students the maximum £3,000 in tuition fees for all courses, says a survey.
Universities do not believe higher fees will put off poorer students
Only one in eight universities says there will be different charges for different courses, says a survey commissioned by the Guardian newspaper.
The government's higher education plans will allow universities to charge variable tuition fees from 2006.
But it seems that few students will be charged less than the maximum.
While two-thirds said they would charge £3,000 a year, one in eight said they would not do so across the board. The others were undecided.
The increased tuition fees for students are part of the Higher Education Act, passed by parliament despite a backbench rebellion by Labour MPs.
Maximum or flat-rate?
It will replace the "up-front" payment of fees with repayment when graduates are working, but the amount to be paid is raised by almost threefold to an upper limit of £3,000 per year.
During the debates over the fees proposals, it was argued that this figure was a maximum - and that universities would be able to set their own rate.
But the survey published in the Guardian suggests that many universities are expecting to treat the £3,000 figure as a flat rate for student fees, rather than an upper limit.
This reflects earlier claims from universities that to charge less could leave them open to accusations that they were offering second-rate courses.
Even universities which were opposed to higher student fees, such as Coventry, have already said they expect to charge the maximum, so as to avoid the impression that there is a "two-tier" status gap between different courses.
Future fees hike
Increasing fees is intended to generate funds for higher education expansion - but the Guardian survey shows that 72% of vice-chancellors are unconvinced that higher fees will raise enough money.
This has prompted a majority of university chiefs to also expect that the £3,000 limit will not be long lasting - with most anticipating that it will be raised in the next four to six years.
Much of the debate over raising fees focused on whether poorer students would be deterred from higher education by the threat of increased levels of debt.
But the survey suggests that only about a third of universities believe that less well-off students will be put off by the higher fees.