Mike Robinson, national officer for higher education at the Unite union, claimed today that there was “anecdotal evidence” of institutions “worried” they had “acted in concert” by having discussions about the issue.
Giving evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee’s inquiry into the government’s funding reforms, Mr Robinson said the decision by most institutions to charge £9,000 was not accidental.
“The level of fee setting worries my union,” he said. “The number of institutions that are going at the £9,000 level we don’t think is an accident, we think it is deliberate. Whether it’s planned between them is our concern and we think that is something that you need to look at.”
He added: “We are looking at institutions that haven’t taken a very transparent view about how they set their fees.”
After the hearing, Mr Robinson said the Office of Fair Trading would have to investigate if specific evidence of collusion emerged.
“The fee increases are a runaway train with an enormous financial crash at the end that the public purse will have to pick up,” he said. “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.”
Of the 31 universities that have so far announced their fees plans for 2012, 22 of them are to charge a flat rate of £9,000.