Now there are indications from Oxford that it could raise tuition fees to the maximum of £9,000 next year, matching Cambridge. At the same time there is evidence that parents are being frightened into saving more to help cover their children's fees.
Here are two parents' stories...
SARAH MARTEN is a mother of two children, aged 15 and 13, so university fees are only three years away.
She's been saving to help with some of their costs, but can't put aside any more to cover the hike in fees to a potential £9,000 a year.
"We put in plans to save up enough money to cover the fees for 3 years of a degree for each of our 2 children and now it's looking like that money we'd saved will only cover one year of a degree, so obviously there's a massive shortfall and we're not sure what we're going to do.
We will try and save a little bit more but we've only go 3 or 4 years to save up many thousands of pounds and it's simply not going to be possible to save that sum of money in so short a time.
It feels absolutely impossible. I mean we don't have that much surplus income. Interest rates are really low as well. And when you put those things together and you look at how much you can save it's going to be a really small amount.
We feel very angry about what's happened. We feel very disappointed. The thing that we want to avoid at all costs is for our children to start their adult working lives saddled with these huge debts. That's really important to us and we're not going to be able to do anything about it. That 's going to happen.
We've always encouraged them to be sensible. We want them to take a gap year and work during that time and save some money. We'll still be trying to help them find ways to fund their university without taking on a huge amount of debt."
MANDY SHARP has been prompted to save more after hearing about the rise in tuition fees. She has a 5 year-old daughter, who has just started school.
Mandy is salting away £100 a month in a tax free ISA and she plans to add lump sums when she has spare cash.
"I felt very nervous. It's a lot of money. I don't know what I'll be doing with my life at that stage. So it's spurred me to increase my savings for her to make it that bit easier.
It's hugely daunting. It's huge amounts and I don't want her to have those big debts when she comes out of university. I never had those fees when I went to university. It's a lot to come away with in terms of debt. That worries me.
It's not an ideal way to start your early years in a career. You won't be earning a large salary. You'll need rent, you may be looking for a flat and there are all those other living expenses. It could be a huge burden.
I'd like to be able to help her. I've been saving since she was a baby. I feel education is important I want her to have the best. I'm not saying I'll be able to cover the whole cost but if I can help her as much as I can, then I'd like to do that."