Scottish higher education institutions are facing the loss of more than 1,100 jobs, half of them academic, if the Government goes ahead with its funding cuts for the next three years.
John Arbuthnott, convener of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, speaking after COSHEP's annual forum on standards in higher education, revealed that confidential estimates from colleges and universities showed an overall drop in posts of almost 4 per cent.
Smaller institutions would be worst hit, said Professor Arbuthnott, with one predicting 16 per cent job losses. "Institutions are extremely concerned about how to achieve these reductions. We have information that there are likely to be redundancies as distinct from early retirements," he said.
Scotland was in a slightly better position than England, Professor Arbuthnott said, because of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's "very prudent" financial management. But there was no scope for SHEFC to manipulate its budget next year.
Sir Graeme Davies, principal of Glasgow University, has also praised SHEFC for giving institutions a "breathing space" in which to plan for the future.
Glasgow aims to shed 90 academic posts by 1999, but Sir Graeme stressed that the university was not facing an imminent crisis and planned a phased programme of early retirement from 1997.
He ruled out compulsory redundancies, and said that while the plan was to cut staff costs by the equivalent of 90 senior staff, there would also be continuing recruitment of lower paid "new blood" academics.
Bill Stewart, president of Glasgow's Association of University Teachers, said: "We're in the fortunate position that a fair number of staff are over 60."