Private higher education colleges are being forced to pay more for the right to photocopy books and journals than their public sector counterparts.
The Council of Independent Colleges and Research Institutions has hit out at the practice and intends to complain to both the Department for Education and Employment and the Copyright Licensing Agency.
According to the CLA, private colleges are charged the full rate - Pounds 5.20 per student - to photocopy books and journals for classroom use. But public sector universities enjoy a discount negotiated by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and pay only Pounds 3.09 per student, said a spokesman.
Marcel van Miert, chairman of CICRI and director of the European Business School in London, asked: "Why are we being charged more for copyright than other universities? It is very odd that a monopolistic agency such as the CLA can charge different fees to similar institutions in the same country."
At its annual general meeting last week, CICRI members supported the council's demand for a government subsidy of Pounds 3,000 per student. The government has agreed to continue contributing Pounds 1,000 a year to tuition fees for students at private institutions for at least another year. But students at public sector universities are subsidised to the tune of Pounds 3,000 a year and the private colleges want parity.
The Department for Education and Employment is reviewing the funding of private university students; CICRI intends to submit a paper outlining its arguments in the new year.