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Report analyses ever-growing merger phenomenon in the university sector

24 April 2015

The European University Association published a new report on mergers in the university sector. The report maps and analyses merger and concentration processes in twenty higher education systems.

The study is of an unprecedented scale, and has made it possible to compile the largest database of university mergers across Europe. EUA recorded merger cases from 2000 until now, including ongoing developments as for instance in France or Ireland, and considering newly announced initiatives as in Norway. This evidences the continuous growth of the phenomenon in Europe, with a significant increase after 2010. 

As part of the work that EUA is carrying out on governance and funding, the report approaches the question of mergers from the angle of efficiency. It explores the rationale for universities to merge and reflects on the costs and gains associated with mergers. The analysis reveals a variety of different drivers but makes it also clear that cost-saving should not be the primary goal for mergers. 

The academic mission must take precedence at all times, and any disruption to achieving academic objectives should be justified by the results of the process. In this light, it is important to consider the transition and opportunity costs of the merger as well as possible alternatives, such as strategic cooperation models other than full-scale mergers.

The report includes a series of case studies which detail success factors and challenges of the different merging processes. The analysis shows that the success of any merger process is very much dependent on a solid pre-evaluation, good planning and implementation. The report also highlights the importance of inspired leadership fostering trust among, and the involvement of, the staff and wider community. 

The report provides key recommendations in order to support the strategic planning of a merger for university leaders and managers. It also addresses public authorities and policy makers as regards the question of system consolidation and offers advice and transferable good practice.

EUA will further exploit the results of the study by developing a pilot merger mapping tool, to be released online later this year. The tool will enable users to identify merger cases that are relevant to their needs and enhance benchmarking opportunities in the field.

University mergers in Europe” is the second thematic report published by EUA as part of the DEFINE project. DEFINE explores strategies for efficient funding of universities in Europe, looking in particular at excellence initiatives, university mergers and performance-based funding mechanisms. The third thematic report focusing on performance-based funding will be published by summer.

European University Association (EUA)

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

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