Scottish Conservative education and lifelong learning spokesperson Elizabeth Smith called for students to be "asked to make a graduate contribution" during the debate on higher education on 30 September 2010.
Ms Smith said her party had ruled out up-front tuition fees and a pure graduate tax and instead declared themselves in favour of a deferred fees system facilitated through income contingent loans.
She told the chamber evidence from other countries like Australia, England, and New Zealand "suggested that university fees have not deterred those from poorer backgrounds from attending university."
The Conservative MSP saw her amended motion passed at decision time.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said tuition fees, either "up front or through the back door", were not the right solution for Scotland.
Mr Russell added the Scottish government would publish a green paper detailing Scottish solutions to the funding of universities.
Calls for an independent review of institutional funding and student support came repeatedly from the Scottish Labour benches, particularly from its higher education spokesperson Claire Baker.
Graduates already paid more tax through income tax, insisted Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Margaret Smith, who said access to university education should be based on "ability to learn, not ability to pay".