By Marcus Leach
Unite is asking the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee to investigate tuition fee rates once all the universities had fixed them for the academic year 2012/13.
"We are asking the BIS Select Committee to re-examine tuition rates at a later stage when all universities have fixed their fees," Unite’s national officer for higher education, Mike Robinson told MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.
"If there has been any collusion between the universities to charge the maximum of £9,000 that would be for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate.
"Every university, bar one, that has declared so far, has gone for the maximum £9,000 annual student fee rate — except Leeds Metropolitan from the Million + group of newer universities which last week said it would charge £8,500.
"This is despite the government’s claim that only be ‘top end’ institutions would charge the highest fees. The fee increases are a runaway train, with an enormous financial crash at the end, that the public purse will have to pick up.
"We are hoping there is no collusion between universities to all charge the highest rate, but it has become a status symbol for vice chancellors, greedy to maintain income and, of course, their own salary levels.
"The tuition fee increases will leave a legacy of debt for many bright graduates well into their 50’s and blight their prospects of getting on to the property market, as the debt will count towards solvency levels.
"Messing with fees and university funding could cost us dear in both international reputation of UK universities and foreign students who we hope to attract. The brightest and best, however, may choose to go to USA, Canada, France, Switzerland or even the new emerging universities in India or China."
Lord Dearing, a well respected academic, investigated student fees in the 1990’s. He recommended a ‘compact’ between students, the public purse and employers, all making a contribution to higher education fees and costs, rather than the current proposal for students to carry the greater part of the burden.
Universities in England will be able to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year from 2012, as the government transfers much of the cost of courses from the state to students.
Fees will rise to a minimum of £6,000, with an upper tier of £9,000 if universities ensure access for poorer students. The signs are most will push for fees to be at the highest level.