MSPs are to investigate whether Scottish universities are "crying wolf" over claims that they will lose out financially to English institutions charging top-up fees.
The Scottish Parliament's newly established cross-party enterprise and culture committee has launched an inquiry into claims that Scottish universities will become less competitive with the rise in incomes at English institutions from 2006 when they will be able to charge fees of up to £3,000 a year.
The Scottish Executive axed tuition fees in 2000, making good the income shortfall to institutions. But Scottish universities are worried that the executive will be unable to make up the far larger shortfall beyond 2006.
They also fear an influx of English students anxious to escape the levy.
Alasdair Morgan, convener of the committee, said the inquiry would encourage creative thinking in respect of any financial implications uncovered. But he ruled out consideration of tuition fees.
"None of the parties in Scotland, from the far right to the far left, wants to go down the route of top-up fees in universities," Mr Morgan said. "What we have to determine is are these (English) changes going to be disadvantageous to the Scottish system or is the (higher education) establishment just crying wolf?"
The committee, which includes two former ministers, is seeking views by the end of September. It wants "specific evidence" of differential impact on different types of institution. The committee has called the inquiry Scottish Solutions, and hopes to produce proposals by December.
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