EUA : European University Association

EUA Experts Conference: Towards Financially Sustainable European Higher Education Institutions (7 – 8 February 2008)

In an increasingly competitive environment Europe’s Higher Education Institutions must find a way to become financially sustainable.

This is why EUA is organising a high-level conference in Brussels, Belgium that will bring together experts from across Europe to identify the key elements necessary for financial survival. Policy makers, institutional leaders and researchers will explore the links between funding and autonomy, accountability and governance structures and pinpoint the key features of sound costing systems.

The conference on the 7/8 February 2008 will source information from EUA’s current funding project, supported by the European Commission, which aims to collect examples of good practice in cost accounting with specific emphasis on full cost development. To access key data EUA has selected a group of European universities and is comparing their income and expenditure flows, accounting systems, legal frameworks and progress towards full cost accounting. The data collected so far by the EUA reflects the huge diversity of public funding mechanisms across Europe and demonstrates the importance of more comprehensive mapping of public funding models and supplementary income streams.

On the basis of key-note presentations, case studies from across Europe and expert sessions, the conference will look to:

  • raise awareness of crucial funding and financing issues;
  • identify the relationship between costing/funding and accountability, governance structures and the degree of university autonomy;
  • discuss questions of general accounting principles, comparability, costing and pricing and financial management;
  • share first findings of the EUA funding project and compare this with other findings.

This conference (please click here to see more information) has a limited capacity of 120 people. Early expressions of interest are encouraged and should be sent to Gemma Jackson

Registration will soon be available at 

European and Australian universities - enabling greater collaboration

An EUA delegation has been meeting with Vice-Chancellors from across Australia this week, in a move designed to promote greater collaboration.

Universities Australia has organised a series of meetings with senior EUA representatives, with the aim of enhancing research and teaching links between Europe and Australia. A specific interest of the Australian host was an update on recent developments in the Bologna Process, and an exchange on experiences with EU funding programmes. As part of the week-long programme, EUA's delegation also visited the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA), the Australian Research Council (ARC), and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and Monash and Swinburne Universities.

In 2006, the Australian Ministry of Education invited Australian universities to discuss the potential benefits of adopting the Bologna Process (or some of its elements) in Australia. The EUA delegation responded in particular to the concern of some of the Australian universities that the European reform model would create a rather prescriptive and inflexible system. There was a strong agreement that the present Australian HE system would be very much in line with core Bologna features, or encompasses at least sufficient flexibility to relate to them. The discussions this week proved further that there is a strong interest in Bologna as a point of departure for enhanced joint cooperation and exchange.

Australian and European development trends in institutional governance and management were also amongst the key topics of discussion. From a European point of view, Australia is a very interesting case. Universities enjoy a high degree of autonomy, but have to generate 60% of their budgets from non public sources, mainly through tuition fees.

While several propositions for collaboration were discussed, the enhancement of joint doctoral programmes has been identified as one of the key priorities for European-Australian research and higher education cooperation. This followed the recent discussions on this topic during the Banff meeting, in which Australians and Europeans participated along with other international partners.

2nd European Quality Assurance Forum (15 -17 November)

Close to five hundred higher education representatives, students, researchers in higher education and quality assurance agency staff gathered in Rome on 15 November to take part in the 2nd European Quality Assurance Forum.

During the opening session at the Sapienza Università di Roma, Henrik Toft Jensen, Chair of the Forum's Organising Committee stressed the importance for quality assurance systems to leave space for innovation and creativity in higher education. This point was echoed by keynote speaker Sybille Reichert, who gave an in-depth presentation on the development of quality assurance in the context of the Bologna process reforms. After outlining how the Bologna reforms had given impetus for quality enhancement in Europe, she outlined that there were still a number of quality challenges at institutional level such as connecting research and teaching, dealing with the impact of rankings, and ensuring the engagement of colleagues. She also underlined that there were quality challenges at the 'system' level, including moving towards 'lighter touch' evaluations and involving more international experts.

The participation of students in different aspects of QA systems has also been a central focus of discussions. While student evaluations are increasingly commonplace, the consequences of such processes still leave much to be desired, according to Anne Mikola, representative of the European Students Union: “University professors are seldom trained as teachers, as universities tend to recruit staff on their research merits and just assume that they can teach. Many professors are not happy with student feedback or an open discussion on how to improve teaching. But if we want student-centred learning, we have to strive for this.” Ms Mikola also reminded participants that students today will be the staff of higher education institutions, ministries and quality agencies tomorrow, and that offering qualitative experience to students in peer review processes will have long-term benefits.
The Socrates-funded event (15-17 November) is again co-organised by the E4 group: the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European Students Union (ESU), the European University Association (EUA) and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE). Participants will continue to explore how universities and QA agencies can improve external and internal quality assurance processes through exchanging practical experience.

To find out more about the conference, please click here.

QA Forum: Italian Minister underlines role of quality in development of ‘democratic’ European Knowledge Society

The Italian Minister for Universities and Research, Fabio Mussi underlined to participants at the 2nd European Quality Assurance Forum the importance of improving quality if Europe is to be a leader in the age of knowledge.

The Minister said that Europe should look to capitalize on its higher education tradition to ‘construct our future in the multi-centred world of knowledge’; a future ‘where Europe could and should accomplish a special mission: making the knowledge society democratic’.

In order to accomplish this, he said it was important to focus on quality: “We should guarantee to European students a very high quality education, the best possible. Our universities should achieve top excellence, pervasively and steadily.”

To achieve high quality education, he said it was important to bring investment in higher education to the levels achieved in Japan and the US, adding that “We have to teach more, better, and to a constantly increasing number of people.

Underling the importance of integrating the European Higher Education Area, he said it was also important to acquire a ‘strong evaluation culture’. Explaining that Italy was setting up an Agency for University and Research Evaluation, he said it was his opinion “that the integrated network of European universities will have to establish common rules in order to acknowledge and reward merit.