The Scottish Government now spends £1,089 less per student on teaching in universities than when the SNP came into office in 2007, Scottish Labour has claimed.
The party’s leader Richard Leonard said the figures show quality of tuition has “clearly been deprioritised by the SNP”.
He said universities and students must be a priority for investment.
Scottish Labour analysis of data obtained from a freedom of information request to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) found that real terms per student spend in 2020-21 is £1,089 lower than it was in 2007-08.
The figure is a combination of the per student teaching grant allocation and the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) fee payment, the latter of which the party said has remained unchanged for more than a decade.
Mr Leonard said: “Even before the pandemic, the Scottish Government had failed to allocate the additional funding requested by the university sector in its most recent budget.
“This means that, by the time the effects of Covid-19 were taking hold, some institutions were already in a difficult financial position.
“Now, in a year where many students have already had their experience marred by the Scottish Government’s failure to plan for their return to university, it is disappointing to find out that on top of everything else, quality of tuition has clearly been deprioritised by the SNP.”
He added: “Universities will be vital to the post-Covid recovery.
“For higher education to continue to make meaningful contributions to the economy and society, institutions and students must be a priority for investment.
“It is time the Scottish Government recognised this and invested in the future of our universities and the students who attend them.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has a world-class higher education sector and our universities have a long-standing reputation for being amongst the best in the world.
“That is why we are investing more than £1 billion in 2019-20 in our higher education system, for the eighth consecutive year.
“It is also why we have provided a significant level of financial support for our colleges and universities through this unprecedented and difficult time. This includes allocating £75 million to protect world-leading research, £10 million for estates development and £5 million for digital inclusion.
“This money is on top of existing funds and sits alongside this government’s longstanding commitment to free tuition which benefits over 120,000 undergraduate students each year studying in Scotland and saves Scottish-domiciled students up to £27,000 student loan debt, over three years, that may be incurred by their peers in other parts of the UK.
“Taken together this provides a strong foundation for the university sector and for students in Scotland. We will continue to work with the Scottish Funding Council to support our universities to remain globally competitive and collaborative.”