Taking just 26 more students on its courses than it should have done has cost the University of Northampton almost £180,000.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has published details of over-recruitment fines for universities in 2012-13.
The University of Northampton was hit by the biggest fine of any university, £179,686, even though it exceeded its student number cap by only 26.
An upside for university bosses in Northampton is that the Times Higher Education noted: “The identities of the institutions fined may show some of those faring best in recruitment terms under the new system.”
Fines for the nine higher education institutions that over-recruited totalled just £802,735, down from £21 million the previous year - a figure reflecting the sharp drop in student numbers in the first year of higher tuition fees.
De Montfort University and the University of Bedfordshire also received some of the larger fine and the University of Sheffield was also among those penalised.