University tuition fees for UK students are already the third highest among developed countries, before next year's hike, according to new research.
With fees due to treble to a maximum of £9,000, a study shows that even before the rise UK students paid the equivalent of just under 5,000 dollars a year to attend university in 2008/09.
Only students in Korea and the United States paid more, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) latest edition of Education at a Glance.
The report analysed and compared education at all levels in 34 OECD member countries plus systems in Brazil, the Russian Federation, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
The analysis shows that almost two-thirds (65.5%) of funding for higher education in the UK came from private sources in 2008, mainly from tuition fees. It puts the UK fourth, with only Chile, Korea and Japan raising a higher proportion of funding from private sources.
Report author Andreas Schleicher said it was "fairly significant" that the UK is third after the US and Korea in terms of average fees. He added: "At the same time what you can also say is most of the people in the UK are covered - they have access to loans. That's far different from Korea and the US."
In both of these countries access to loans and grants is much more restricted, Mr Schleicher said.
He cautioned against following the systems such as those in the US and Chile, where spiralling costs have priced many people out of attending university. In the US, higher education has become much more expensive, but has not expanded at the same rate.
Referring to the US, Mr Schleicher said: "One of the hypotheses is that higher education has become so expensive for individuals who are much less well supported than in a country like the UK that it basically becomes unaffordable for certain groups of students."
He added: "The cost of higher education has risen very dramatically (in the US). It is very difficult for people to afford it because access to financing is much less well developed than in the UK."