A bombshell funding deal has left north and north-east universities bearing the brunt of sweeping cuts to higher education.
The Scottish Government has taken the axe to teaching and research, with institutions across the region poised to lose almost £6million next year.
Unions have warned the deal could lead to large-scale job losses as universities try and find ways to save cash.
North-east institutions have suffered the worst grant reductions in Scotland, with both Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University (RGU) having their cash cut by a “catastrophic” 3.9%.
In cash terms, Aberdeen University is losing almost £3million, RGU nearly £1.5million and the Highlands and Islands University almost £1.2million.
Last night opposition politicians lashed out at the SNP over the cuts, saying they would leave Scottish education in the “Dark Ages”.
Education Secretary Angela Constance dismissed the accusations.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “Not content with slashing college funding, which has led to 152,000 places being lost, the SNP now turn the full force of their catastrophic education policies towards universities.
“These grants allow our universities to develop cutting-edge technology and conduct the very best research, allowing us to expand our minds and our understanding of the world around us.
“It’s as if the SNP would prefer we live in the Dark Ages.”
Scottish Labour’s opportunity spokesman, Iain Gray – referencing an infamous stone commemorating Alex Salmond’s free-tuition pledge – said: “Scotland’s universities should be the envy of the world, but under the SNP Government they are set to suffer brutal cuts.
“No amount of taxpayer-funded monuments will change that – only using the powers of the Scottish Parliament will.
“Scottish Labour would protect the education budget over the next five years to invest in the future of our country at every level – from nursery right through to university.”
The announcement from the Scottish Funding Council represents a 3.9% cut to the teaching, research and innovation grants of both Aberdeen University and RGU – the joint highest in Scotland along with Dundee and Edinburgh.
Mary Senior, the Scottish spokeswoman for the University and College Union, said the spending cut was “disappointing” and “deeply worrying” for staff working in higher education.
She added: “The spending review cut to the higher education budget means this is a difficult time financially, but we don’t accept that universities need to cut staff numbers.
“If university principals can find the money to award themselves pay rises of up to 15%, then we can find savings to keep the hard working staff who carry out the research and teaching that currently makes our universities world leading.”
Officials from both Aberdeen University and RGU declined to comment last night.
But a spokeswoman for the Highlands and Islands University said: “These indicative figures will be used to plan our provision for the academic year 2016-17.
“The University of the Highlands and Islands has received a reduction in grants for teaching, research and innovation but at a sector average value.
“We will be planning to minimise any effect on teaching.”
Ms Constance said: “The Scottish Government has invested more than £4billion in Scotland’s higher education sector in the last four years and, notwithstanding a very tough budget round, 2016/17 will be the fifth year where investment has topped £1billion.”