Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has announced that the tuition fees could rise to a maximum of £9,000 per year.

Fellow Ministers and Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg and Vince Cable looked on uncomfortably from the government benches as Willetts unveiled plans which could potentially see tuition fees almost trebling from the current amount of £3,290.

The general fees cap will be placed at £6,000 but Mr Willetts has said that certain institutions will be able to charge more "in exceptional circumstances". Those universities who wish to demand the higher rate will have to show that they are making an effort to take part in schemes that will encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply to university.

Mr Willetts was quick to point out that no students will be expected to pay tuition fees upfront. Instead they will pay in the form of graduate contributions, repaying their loans as 9% of their income with a real rate of interest once they begin earning over £21,000 per year.

In addition, Mr Willetts announced that a £150 million National Scholarship Scheme would be targeted at bright students from poor backgrounds. He said that "under our proposals, a quarter of graduates - those on the lowest incomes - will pay less overall than they do at present."

The proposals have prompted anger amongst students and others who feel that the Government is simply trying to price a significant number of people out of going to university. In a statement to Varsity, CUSU called the tuition fee increases a "cynical attempt to shift the burden of the spending cuts onto students." They emphasised that "This is not a good deal for students. It is not a good deal for universities. It is not a good deal for society."

A spokesman from the University has said "Cambridge needs to balance its books [and] in that context the University welcomes the Government’s decision to increase the maximum annual tuition fee to £9,000."

They added "we remain committed to the provision of bursaries to students from less advantaged backgrounds."