The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council is giving more money to computing and information technology in its latest allocation of capital funding.
The move follows last year's quality assessment of computer studies, which highlighted concern about computing equipment in every institution. SHEFC has already announced a special one-year initiative to provide extra support for departmental equipment.
Different subjects' equipment needs are taken into account in the capital funding formula by giving a weighting to each subject group. In 1994/95, SHEFC split the subject group of mathematics and computing into two, with respective weightings of 4 and 6 to reflect the greater need for equipment in teaching and research.
But institutions warned that this rating was still not high enough, and SHEFC has now increased the computing weighting to 7. This is the fourth highest weighting after 10 for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, and 9 for both science and engineering. The lowest weighting of 2 goes to business and administration, social sciences, and humanities, languages and mass communication.
SHEFC is distributing capital grants of Pounds 43 million to Scotland's 21 higher education institutions, a funding increase of about 6 per cent from last year, with Pounds 37 million for capital equipment and Pounds 6 million for minor capital works.
John Sizer, SHEFC chief executive, said that institutions would for the first time be free to use these grants to support loans taken out for estates and capital equipment.
"This additional freedom should enable institutions to take advantage of opportunities for bringing much needed private finance into higher education in Scotland at a time when the resources available from the council continue to be limited."
The highest equipment grant, Pounds 6.3 million, goes to Edinburgh University, followed by Pounds 6 million for Glasgow, with the lowest, Pounds 124,000, going to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Professor Sizer said that an extra 8 per cent of capital funding would be distributed through formula driven grants, which now represented about three-quarters of the total.
"This move recognises the desirability of giving institutions greater freedom to decide their own priorities in spending their resources," he said.
"In the longer term, the council intends to provide institutions with grants for teaching and for research which cover both capital and recurrent requirements."