Reports say university funding could be brought forwards to support research during the COVID-19 crisis without increasing total spending.

News Corp is reporting that a group of vice-chancellors and the education minister, Dan Tehan, are considering bringing funding from 2024-25 forward to 2021-22.

Universities face the loss of billions in revenue in coming years due to COVID-19 and the loss of international students, with about 21,000 jobs in the sector expected to go.

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson says it is “sensible to support” the idea of bringing forward funding from future years “as an emergency measure”.

The plan to bring forward up to $700 million from the $2.1 billion lined up for research in 2024-25 would delay some universities from falling off the funding cliff.

It is hoped that international student revenue will grow once more when travel resumes.