Higher education budgets in Scotland have dropped by £135 million in real terms in the last decade, according to Scottish Labour.
The party said figures provided by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPiCe) show the Scottish Government has “deprioritised” universities.
The figures show a drop since the 2010-11 financial year from £1.16 billion to £1.025 billion for next year – when the figures are adjusted for inflation.
All of the figures released by the party reflect real-terms spending in 2019-20.
Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes announced the Scottish Government’s draft funding pledges in Holyrood on Thursday, pledging £1.044 billion in cash terms for higher education in the next year.
The proposed difference, in real terms, between university funding for this year and the coming year is just £100,000.
Capital budgets for universities have also remained largely stagnant, at £41.2 million for the coming year, a real terms rise of £3 million – but representing a fall of more than 50% in real terms from 2010-11, when the budget stood at £97.4 million in 2019-20 prices.
Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “This budget gives university funding real terms protection at 0%.
“The reality is that universities have no more money, in real terms, to spend on students and staff than they had last year.
“We said this year’s budget was pivotal and we welcome the fact that the settlement interrupts a five year pattern of real terms cuts to universities.
“However, it does not relieve the set of funding pressures facing universities.
“What they need now is for this to be a turning point, with significant new investment to follow, so that universities get to a sustainable funding position and can fully support Scotland’s success.”
Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the pledges were bad for students and the wider Scottish economy.
He said: “Investing in education is investing in our people and our economy, it should be the top priority for any government, and Nicola Sturgeon promised it would be hers.
“Yet under the SNP’s stewardship, Scotland’s universities have been deprioritised, which has led to a real terms lack of investment totalling over £700 million since 2010-11.
“As Universities Scotland have said, what the sector needs is “significant new investment so that universities get to a sustainable funding position”.
“Unfortunately, the budget statement from the SNP, published last Thursday, shows no sign that they have decided to re-prioritise our universities.
“Scottish Labour would re-prioritise and reinvest in our universities and the students that attend them.”
Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland has a world-class higher education system which contributes significantly to our inclusive growth ambitions and the diversity of our society.
“Since 2012-13 we have consistently invested over £1 billion annually in our universities and this will continue in 2020-21, accounting for around 40% of the sector’s income.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Funding Council to support our universities to remain globally competitive and collaborative.”