Scottish academics are hoping that Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland, will help ease the higher education funding crisis after he gave union leaders a sympathetic hearing last week.
Mr Forsyth, who gained a reputation for abrasiveness and lack of consultation as Scottish Office education minister, has adopted a listening policy as Scottish Secretary, and has now met representatives of the Association of University Teachers Scotland.
David Bleiman, AUT assistant general secretary, said: "It was a good meeting. We feel the Secretary of State listened to and clearly understood our arguments about the damaging consequences of further cuts at the level of 3 per cent, and we now hope that he will find the resources within what we have to acknowledge is a tight public spending round to limit the damage."
John Duffy, honorary secretary of AUTS, said Mr Forsyth had acknowledged the efforts of academics in achieving higher participation in higher education than expected.
"He was concerned to hear that lecturers' jobs were threatened and he was also sympathetic to the particular problems faced by contract research staff."
The AUTS has offered Mr Forsyth "novel insights" into the sector by inviting him to sit in on a departmental meeting to discuss a forthcoming quality assessment meeting, or to see the work of a student advisory service.
Universities should not be seen as a drain on the public purse, but as an integral part of the economy, the AUTS told Mr Forsyth.