Universities are increasingly expected to fulfil a wide range of needs of the rising knowledge societies and their demands. Beyond the university’s traditional functions of teaching, research and innovation, new roles and tasks, such as widening participation, continuing professional development, etc. emerged.
These changing expectations have led to reforms on Governance in Higher Education both at system and institutional level. Although widely used, the term governance can stand for various elements, but is always strongly and directly related to university autonomy, academic freedom and institutional accountability. (Definition e.g. “the formal and informal exercise of authority under laws, policies and rules that articulate the rights and responsibilities of various actors, including the rules by which they interact”.)
EUA has paid strong attention to the development and impact of these reforms through a wide array of studies (such as the Autonomy Study, the Full costing projects, EUDIS and the Diversity study, stakeholder debates and conferences as well as through its Institutional Evaluation Programme.
EUA strongly believes that increasing institutional autonomy is a key element to enable universities to best respond to the new demands. However, perceptions and terminology of institutional autonomy vary greatly in Europe. To compare systems reliably, more systematic mapping of universities’ autonomy and accountability through a set of common indicators is necessary.
EUA has designed a multi-stage, interactive process aimed at studying in depth this crucial issue for European universities. The first “building block” of this analysis consisted of a Europe-wide Autonomy Study, the objective of which was to provide necessary knowledge basis for further benchmarking of university autonomy and governance issues in the future.
This exploratory study specifically looked at the ability of universities to decide on:
academic matters (deciding on degree supply, curriculum and methods of teaching; deciding on areas, scope, aims, and methods of research.)
financial issues (acquiring and allocating funding, deciding on tuition fees, accumulating surplus)
organisational structures (setting the university structures and statutes, making contracts, electing decision-making bodies and persons)
staffing policies (responsibility for recruitment, salaries and promotion).
The second part of the study, the “Autonomy Scorecard” report, builds on the first EUA autonomy report (“University Autonomy in Europe I”). The “Autonomy Scorecard”, which treads new ground in developing a methodology to collect, compare and weight such data, has been carried out in close collaboration with the university sector. The national rectors’ conferences, EUA’s collective members, have collaborated on the project.
The Autonomy Scorecard is an exclusive benchmarking tool, which will help public authorities and higher education institutions to better assess university autonomy in the wider European framework, and thus promote the exchange of best practices in a rapidly evolving field.
For more detailed information, check out the online University Autonomy Tool here.
Within the framework of the EUDIS project, EUA looked more closely at the link between the diversification of income streams and the university’s autonomy and thus will providing another “building block” for the bigger picture on autonomy.
The work on institutional diversity analyses the extent to which diversity between institutions, and in their internal structures and functioning, enables universities to respond to societal demands, while also considering how to develop incentives for diversity. The final report was published at the beginning of 2010.
EUA wishes to put the expertise gained through the completion of these studies at the service of its members, The organisation therefore launches in 2012 a large project in the Eastern Neighbouring Area, the ATHENA project, which aims to contribute to the development, reform and modernisation of higher education systems in Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia.
Find out more about these projects.