The European University Association has released a new report on the “Financial and economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis on universities in Europe”. It is the first of a two-part flagship study, the EUA Public Funding Observatory 2020/2021, and contains data from 29 university systems in Europe.
The report provides a detailed picture of the immediate impact of the pandemic on university funding and offers insights into the implications expected in the future. It concludes with 10 key messages and a series of recommendations to universities and policy makers on how to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis and turn challenges into opportunities.
“The study shows that the overall impact of the crisis is expected to be broad and long lasting,” said Amanda Crowfoot, EUA Secretary General. “What is clear is that universities must be prepared for operational and financial difficulties in the coming years and public authorities must provide adequate support to universities over the long term.”
Key messages from the report include:
- The financial impact of the crisis is still moderate, but it will be strongly felt in a few years.
- The biggest immediate losses are linked to interrupted services, contractual research and international student recruitment.
- Most additional public funding to universities has been provided for Covid-19 related research.
- New investments are needed for digital infrastructure, staff training and the adaptation of campus facilities to new health and safety regulations.
- The pandemic accelerated the digital transition, which is also an opportunity to foster efficiency in the sector.
- Physical infrastructure risks further decline where there is already chronic underinvestment. Instead, in places where there is public investment, digitalisation is prioritised.
“There are high levels of uncertainty and great concern in projections about future income from both public and private sources,” explained Thomas Estermann, EUA Director of Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development. “However, on a positive note, greater trust in universities due to their prominent role in crisis recovery is an asset – and we can capitalise on that.”
“It will be precisely Europe’s researchers and skilled university graduates who find the solutions to the crisis,” added Crowfoot. “There is a clear boost of confidence in research in the context of Covid-19. This is an opportunity for universities, decision-makers and society to work together towards positive change.”
The EUA report also finds that basic research funding could come under pressure and that reduced contractual research funding will increase applications for competitive research, both at the national and European level – further lowering success rates.
In its recommendations, EUA calls for coherence between different funding policies at the European and national level and funding synergies between EU and national funding programmes. This will support universities in providing far-reaching, comprehensive solutions in response to current and future challenges.
The second part of the EUA Public Funding Observatory 2020/2021 will be published in the spring of 2021 in its usual format.