By Gary Eason
Education correspondent, BBC News
There is no limit on fees for overseas students
Tuition fees for international students in the UK went up by about 5% in the past year, a survey shows.
They range from about £8,500 to more than £32,000, depending on course, and over the past decade have risen by between a third and more than half.
The annual survey of universities is conducted by vice-chancellors' group, Universities UK, but not publicised.
Unlike fees for home students, those charged to people from abroad are not capped by the government.
With the UK in recession, the rate of inflation in the year to last October, the month when most university courses begin, was 1.5% as measured by the Consumer Prices Index.
Lab fees up 8%
The response rate to the survey also varied, from 69% to 96% of higher education institutions for the various questions.
The cheaper courses were the classroom-based ones aimed at undergraduates.
These varied from £8,500 to £11,700 a year and the average (median) had gone up by 3% over the 2008 level, to £9,300.
Laboratory and workshop-based courses, which are more expensive to run because of the equipment involved, had fees of between £9,500 and £14,800 which had gone up by 8% on average to £11,500.
Most of these would involve three-year degrees.
Taught postgraduate courses, of usually one year, ranged from £9,000 to £13,200 in the classroom (up 4.3% to an average of £9,700).
Those using labs were £10,300 to £16,000, up 6.4% to £11,700 on average.
Research degrees were attracting fees ranging from £9,200 to £12,100 (average £9,800, up 5.4%).
Lab-based research was costing £10,400 to £14,300 a year or £11,900 on average (up 5.3%).
More expensive than these were MBAs, ranging from £10,500 to £24,900.
The annual rise in the cost of MBAs, to an average of £12,400, was only 3.3% - but over the previous decade it had been £4,400 or 55%.
The smallest increase over the 10 years had been in lab-based undergraduate degrees, up only 37%.
By far the most costly courses were those in clinical medicine and, in particular, dentistry - where taught degrees averaged £24,500 and could be as much as £32,700 a year.
In many cases the actual fees are only basic costs, with students having to find extra money for such things as books and course materials, field trips and even graduations.
The 2009-10 survey included for the first time additional questions on whether universities were requiring financial deposits for international students - partly as a consequence of the new points-based immigration system.
These showed that about half were not but about 40% were - again, varying but equivalent to as much as half the tuition fees.
The rise in fees over the years has not prevented an expansion of the number of international student coming to the UK.
The British Council, which promotes the UK as a study destination, has welcomed this increase in visitors as "a heartening endorsement" of the UK's reputation as a place to study.
In 2007-08, there were 229,640 students in the UK from outside the European Union, compared with 117,290 in 1998-99.
And they provide an increasingly important revenue stream because universities can charge them whatever they wish.
A review of student finance commissioned by the Westminster government is getting under way, with calls from some quarters for the index-linked £3,000 cap on fees for home students to be lifted.
The sort of fees that are charged to those from overseas may be seen to reflect the working of a market restricted only by competition between universities.