14 Dec 2017   |   Network News

New EUA data on university funding: Gaps widen, recovery fragile

The European University Association (EUA) will present the findings of the 2017 Public Funding Observatory on Wednesday, 13 December in a free webinar. The data, presented in a report and online tool, captures the very latest funding trends in Europe and offers the most up-to-date information on 34 different higher education systems.

The study reveals that since the 2008 financial crisis, the divide between higher education systems that increase public funding, and those that reduce investment, is getting wider. It also shows that while 2012 was the most difficult year in terms of cuts, any recovery that can now be detected is slow and fragile.

“Student numbers and dynamic economic contexts affect university funding,” explains Thomas Estermann, EUA’s Director of Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development. “A handful of countries have increases that match student numbers and GDP growth, while others simply need to up their investments to close the gap.”

Only 14 systems had higher funding in 2016 than in 2008 and eight of those have a faster growth in student populations compared to the increase in funding. Nineteen systems still had lower levels of direct public funding in 2016 than in 2008.

“Once university funding is cut, it takes a long time to catch up. Decreases may hit all activity areas, including teaching, research, infrastructure and staff,” explains Estermann. “If Europe sees more economic growth, we need to seize the opportunity to invest in higher education and set the stage for long-term sustainable funding trends.”

National funding cuts also make it difficult for universities to compete successfully for EU grants. EU funding itself runs thin, which has caused the overall success rate in the current EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation to drop to about 10%. According to the report and EUA’s extensive work on “EU funding for universities”, increases are needed both at the EU level and at the national level.

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This release was first published on 12 December by the European University Association.