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New Public Funding Observatory update reports on trends in higher education funding

22 June 2012

Participants at EUA’s first Funding Forum were given a preview of the association’s new update report of the Public Funding Observatory. The latest in a series of updates on the impact of the economic crisis on public higher education funding includes for the first time a full overview of developments over the period 2008-2012.

The full report, published today, confirms that while the impact of the crisis on national systems varies widely across Europe, no national higher education system has been left completely unaffected. The report groups countries in four categories: increased public funding to universities; stable funding; cuts of up to 10%; and cuts of more than 10% (over the period in comparison to 2008).

The analysis shows that a number of countries mainly in the south and east of Europe, some of which already have lower overall public investment levels in higher education, have made major or substantial cuts in higher education budgets since 2008. EUA believes that this poses the risk of creating deep divisions across Europe (in terms of higher education funding), as some countries that already had higher-than-average GDP expenditure on higher education have maintained or increased funding to universities over the period.

The report points out that this situation is unsustainable both for the affected countries and Europe as a whole. Reduced investment weakens countries’ research capacities and knowledge base, and impacts negatively on the development of their knowledge economy. In addition, diverging investment trends decrease the potential for cross-border academic and scientific cooperation and put the completion of the European Higher Education and Research Areas at risk.

This trend could also risk provoking a ‘brain drain’ of talented researchers from these countries and could make it harder for universities in these countries to participate in European funding programmes which work under the principle of co-funding (i.e. the university must provide funding alongside the European funding for projects).

During the Forum, EUA insisted that European funding programmes take these risks into account and allow participants to claim reimbursement on the basis of the full costs of their activities, notably in Horizon 2020, successor to the EU’s 7th framework programme for research.

In the context of the current economic climate, EUA maintains that stable, sufficient and flexible public funding for higher education and research is crucial to ensure Europe’s future as a dynamic competitive global region.

EUA also reaffirms that funding of higher education should not be seen by European governments as expenditure but as an investment for Europe's future, and that increased investment in higher education and research is a way to help European countries out of the economic crisis.

Find out more about EUA's Public Funding Observatory.

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
Avenue de l’Yser, 24
1040 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 2 230 55 44

Geneva office:
114, Rue du Rhône
Case postale 3174
1211 Geneva 3
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 552 02 96