A north-east professor has said the university funding system must be overhauled to avoid an “uncertain future”.
Prof Patience Schell, the chairwoman in Hispanic studies at Aberdeen University, has joined 47 other leading academics calling for major change.
The group has penned a joint letter to all of the UK and devolved ministers for education, universities and research, setting out the “dramatic” drop in income faced by organisations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It says a “vibrant and robust” higher education system is vital for the country’s future but the current funding model is “inadequate”.
“We therefore call upon you to use the current crisis as an opportunity to create a new deal for higher education,” it adds.
“Rather than providing a one-time bailout, it is paramount that the UK and devolved governments substantially increases public spending on tertiary education.”
The letter was written by Dr Nicola Pratt, vice-president of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.
It has been backed by other bodies including the British Association of Victorian Studies, Royal Music Association and the Architectural Humanities Research Association.
Prof Schell has signed the document as a representative of the Society for Latin American Studies.
She said: “The pandemic has highlighted the ways in which the higher education funding model is unsustainable.
“Government support, in the UK at large but also in Scotland, does not cover the costs of the higher education sector.
“International student recruitment has been a major way in which universities have made up for this shortfall – international students subsidise home students.
“But with the pandemic, and the projected drop in international students, especially those coming from China, the fundamental problems with the model are clear to see and actually threaten the sector’s viability.
“Universities offer not just economic, social and cultural benefit for individuals and communities, but the sector is engaged in research which is offering new hopes for coronavirus treatment and the potential for a vaccine.
“In this moment, we see how research carried out at UK universities has the potential to save lives around the world.
“As a teacher and a researcher, I am worried for the sector’s future without a fundamental change to the funding model.”