Professor Martin McCoustra, chairman in chemical physics at Heriot-Watt University, said the institution has to run top-up"maths lessons for first-year students which drill them in skills such as solving equations – something he says is no longer taught sufficiently thoroughly at school.
The comments come less than a week after a House of Lords report called for more students to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects. The report went on to say students entering university to study Stem subjects were often short of the required levels of mathematics skills.
In an interview with The Herald, Professor McCoustra said similar concerns existed in Scotland.
"The House of Lords committee recommendations are aimed at universities in England and Wales, but the same issue applies in Scotland and needs to be addressed by the relevant qualification bodies," he said.
"Our students have excellent Higher and A Level results, but still a number of them may need continuing support with the mathematical skills required to study engineering, physical sciences and other Stem disciplines. It is not that the higher level of skills are not being taught, but what we find is that students do not have the confidence in their previous learning when it comes to manipulating equations.
"My belief is that the repetition of learning on these techniques which make them second nature to pupils is not happening in our schools in the way it used to and we have to work on that when they come to university."
Dr Peter Hughes, chief executive of Scottish Engineering, agreed, saying all pupils wishing to study Stem subjects should progress beyond Higher before going to university. "Maths is at the heart of all engineering degrees and all pupils going to university to study Stem subjects should not be going just with Higher maths," he said.
"They should be doing Advanced Higher which is at the same level as the first year of a degree."
However, Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teachers' union, said schools did far more than simply preparing pupils for higher education.
"While drilling pupils might work for some, teachers have to try and engage with all of those in the classroom and not just those going to university," he said. "There are no easy or quick solutions to address this issue, which we do recognise, but the new Curriculum for Excellence aims to encourage more confident learners which, if successful, should improve the development of skills.
"Repetitive learning may work for high achievers, but the experience of teachers is that it is not the most productive approach to learning and can lead pupils to switch off."
Last week, the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee said students entering university to study Stem subjects were often short of the required levels of mathematics skills. The committee called for immediate action to ensure enough young people study Stem subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
The committee was shocked to discover many students starting Stem degrees, even those with A-Level maths qualifications, lacked the maths skills required to undertake their studies.
To help remedy this, the committee recommended maths should be compulsory for all students post-16.