Scottish university heads should engage in debate on alternative forms of higher education funding, according to Edinburgh rector Iain Macwhirter.
Mr Macwhirter, elected by students earlier this year, said that vice-chancellors should be doing more to put forth their opinions on tuition fees.
Speaking to The Journal he said: "I can understand why the vice-chancellors don't want to make what could be seen as political statements. However, the principle of free education needs to be defended.
Speaking to The Journal, Edinburgh University's Student Association President Thomas Graham also called on politicians and university chancellors alike to contribute to a meaningful debate aiming to come up with alternative forms of higher education funding.
"I would like universities and the political parties to grow up and start talking honestly and say what system they want in Scotland and how we can best go about delivering that in the most affordable way.
"Come next May there will be an enormous funding gap and it will be inevitable that we will need a review for higher education funding, and we need to start discussing this now to ensure we find an alternative to tuition fees."
Mr Macwhirter added: “Universities are moral communities, and I think parents, students and the vast majority of staff, who are opposed to the restoration of tuition fees, could reasonably expect the leaders of these communities to be a little less negative about the present system and its merits.
“I fear that the deafening silence from Scottish vice-chancellors, and the proxy announcements in favour of fees from individuals such as Lord Sutherland and Sir Andrew Cubie, suggest that the vice-chancellors are at the very least relaxed about the prospect.”
When approached for his opinion on tuition fees, Edinburgh university's principal, Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, did not comment.
Instead, a spokesperson for the university said: "It's vital that Scottish universities be adequately resourced to compete with leading UK and international institutions.
"In a context where public sector resources will be tight, the principle of maintaining overall Scottish government investment which is broadly comparable to the rest of the UK is critical.
“For its own part, the University of Edinburgh will continue to work hard to obtain the maximum possible benefit for students from the public funding it is allocated."
Responding to the comment Mr Macwhirter said the principal was right to call on the Scottish government to respect its promise that universities would not lose out financially as a result of the abolition of tuition fees.
Professor Sir Duncan Rice, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, told The Journal that an alternative to tuition fees could see Scottish universities increase their available funds.
“If properly constructed, a different fees and funding regime would enable more income to come to universities, to be ploughed back into increasing our quality for the benefit of all concerned.
"At the same time, it would let us transfer more income to subsidise talented people who are deterred from coming to universities by their financial circumstances.
“This is the financial model which allowed Barack Obama to become president of the United States of America.”
A spokesperson for Queen Margaret University stressed that their principal and vice-chancellor, Dr Petra Wend, is personally against tuition fees.