The decline in taxpayer funding is being offset by a sharp increase in student tuition fees.
The University and College Union, which carried out the research, accused the Government of “passing the buck” on higher education in a move that threatens decades of progress.
But the Coalition insisted that the change would put universities on a “long-term sustainable basis” and would actually trigger a 10 per cent overall rise in the higher education budget.
The comments come just weeks before the Government prepares to announce the fine details of funding levels for the next 12 months.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: "This study shows how over the last 30 years higher education funding has shifted from the state to the student.
"This Government's regressive university reforms will accelerate this process further and see annual public investment in teaching and research fall to its lowest proportion in over a century.
"You cannot maintain a world-class university system in the 21st century by turning the clock back to the 1900s and before.”
From September this year, universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 in annual tuition fees – almost three times the current maximum.
The rise will offset a drop in the amount of direct state funding for research and teaching.
The UCU study forecasts that public expenditure on teaching and research will fall by 44 per cent over the next three years, from £6.6bn in 2011/12 to £3.7bn in 2014/15.
Annual Government funding for teaching and research will make up just 15 per cent of universities’ income by 2015, the lowest since the 1900s, it was claimed.
This would increase the burden placed on students, the UCU said.
The study claimed the proportion of funding from students - through higher tuition fees - is expected to reach 47.2 per cent by 2013/2014. This would represent the highest level since the 1890s. In the early 1970s, this share stood at just over six per cent.
The conclusions are made after an analysis of official funding records over the last 120 years.
ut a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Our reforms put university finances on to a long-term sustainable basis. Students will have more study choices and funding for universities will follow their decisions.
"We estimate that total funding for the sector could increase by around 10 per cent over the spending review period."