World renowned physicist and author Stephen Hawking has spoken of fears that a gifted academic with a condition as serious as his own would not be able to flourish in today's tough economic times.
The 73-year-old - Britain's highest profile scientist who found fame with a new audience following the release of award-winning film 'The Theory Of Everything' - expressed the concerns at an event to celebrate his 50th year as a fellow at the University of Cambridge's Gonville and Caius College.
He praised the college for supporting him throughout the progression of motor neuron disease, allowing him to focus on his ground-breaking work.
But, speaking before an invited audience at the college, he added: "I wonder whether a young ambitious academic, with my kind of severe condition now, would find the same generosity and support in much of higher education.
"Even with the best goodwill, would the money still be there? I fear not."
Although Hawking did not elaborate on his comments, he has previously raised concerns about cuts to government funding for research budgets.
Mr Hawking was speaking to guests of college benefactors. TV star Carol Vorderman, whose daughter studied at the college, and rock star Brian Adams, whose wife has links to it, were in the audience.
He described Gonville and Caius as his "academic home". Speaking of his election to a fellowship in 1965, he added: "That fellowship was a turning point in my life, as the college made sure I could continue my research, despite my increasing disability." He also said part of the college's West Road site had been adapted to house him and his family - this was where he went on to write his first book, 'A Brief History Of Time'.