Scottish universities say they are facing their “toughest funding settlement” after £28.5 million was cut from the teaching budget for the next academic year.

Umbrella group Universities Scotland reacted to the indicative funding allocations from the Scottish Funding Council.

While teaching funding for universities was down by 3.8%, research funding was up by £12.6 million (4.2%) and capital funding increased £2.6 million (10.2%).

Universities say they have faced a real-terms erosion of the teaching grant – which covers Scottish students – over the last decade.

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Professor Iain Gillespie, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “This is by far the toughest funding settlement universities have faced, as £28.5 million of Government cuts had to be found from next year’s teaching budgets.

“After a decade of real-terms erosion of university funding, the Funding Council has been forced to make some very difficult choices.

“Every university faces a cash cut to their resources to support students’ learning.

“There is no way that this trajectory of public funding in university teaching is sustainable.

“Universities will find it increasingly hard to manage these cuts whilst continuing to offer the high-quality education and wider experience that our students deserve and country needs.

“The cuts add considerable pressure to university finances at the same time as they face increased costs and significant challenges in recruiting international students, which has been relied on by most institutions in recent years as a source of income to cover the shortfall in Government funding in every Scottish student’s place.”

Commenting on Thursday’s announcement, SFC chief executive Karen Watt said: “This has been a particularly challenging funding round.

“While we recognise that universities are operating in a difficult financial environment, managing a range of different pressures, the funding package we are announcing today will ensure that more opportunities are available for Scottish students than pre-Covid.

“We are also increasing investment in university research and innovation given its vital importance to new discoveries and making research useful for social and economic benefit.”

The Scottish Government said the allocations included the removal of 1,289 temporary student places implemented during the pandemic.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our universities play a pivotal role in Scotland’s economy and society, and despite facing the most challenging budget since devolution, the Scottish Government will continue to invest over £1 billion on teaching and research, including an increase in research and innovation funding in the coming year.

“This is over and above the investment in ensuring we maintain free tuition – which has saw the number of Scottish students entering university increase by 31% since its implementation.

“We are seeing record numbers of young people aged 19 and under securing a university place, including record numbers of students from our poorest communities as a result of Scottish Government investment in our universities, and ministers are determined to ensure the sector continues to thrive.”