Tuition fees for students sitting hospitality degrees could double this September, fuelling fears that recruitment of home-grown graduates into the sector will become even harder.
The introduction of university top-up fees will add more than £5,000 to many students' tuition costs. Students enrolling now for a four-year international hotel management degree at Thames Valley University, for example, will face bills of £9,450, compared with £4,113 previously.
However, it seems that the numbers of students enrolling for degrees has not yet been affected. Janet Shaw, tutor at Huddersfield University, where fees have risen from £4,095 to £9,000, said that there had not been a drop in the number of students this year.
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, feared that while many universities and colleges are able to fill places with foreign students who are willing to pay, this could threaten home-grown talent.
He said: "We must find a balance between training foreign students who are prepared to pay and leaving enough places for home-grown students, so that we are able to fulfil our own industry's needs."
The rise in fees has caused some universities to cut out the traditional year-long work placement and offer two-year fast-track degrees.
Alan Machin, tourism management lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, warned: "Some tutors are predicting that, within three to five years, the sandwich course will be like that famous culinary offering of British Rail - curled up at the edges and heading for the dustbin."
Brian Wisdom, chief executive at sector skills council People 1st, warned that the industry needed to look for other solutions, such as upskilling the existing workforce and improving retention rates, if it was to fill the estimated extra 119,000 positions required by 2014.
By Benjamin Walker and Emily Manson