Cut-price college fees for pensioners are being scrapped because they break age discrimination rules.

Thousands of elderly students in Essex colleges will be hit by fee rises when the new law comes in this September.

Colleges will no longer be allowed to subsidise hundreds of courses for the over-60s. Instead, pensioners will have to pay the same as everyone else.

It is the second time older students have been hit by rule changes.

The Government has already forced colleges to target more of their cash on school-leavers in a bid to boost their chances of getting jobs.

There are fears the latest move will put older people off going back to college.

The Grey Friars Guild was set up for over-60s studying in Colchester. Some members are in their 90s.

Spokesman John Knight said: "Most courses will be more than £200 a year which will be prohibitive for many of our members.

"For some the only time they really get out is when they come to the guild for their lunch and a class in the afternoon.

"If these classes are going to be full fee it is going to be very difficult for them."

He added: "One of the mottos of Grey Friars is Education for Life'. Over the last 20 years there has been a big drive to encourage the over-60s to come back into education. Classes ensure that the over-60s keep their minds active.

"The main people who are going to suffer are those on fixed old age pensions and a lot of women fall into that category.

"It's a pity because it's going to hit them and they won't be able to afford it."

Pensioners currently pay half the normal course fee.