Universities across Europe are facing a challenging and complex financial situation in which traditional modes of funding have been transformed and continue to evolve. EUA’s Public Funding Observatory shows that the economic crisis led many countries to reduce public funding for universities. Despite the recent economic upturn, there is still growing stress on the sustainability of funding and mounting pressure to explore new sources of income. The efficiency of funding in terms of the capability to meet certain policy goals in a cost-effective way is therefore highly important.
EUA closely follows the broad array of policy responses to these challenges. One approach is to link public funding for universities to performance, using proxies for output rather than more traditional input-based funding. Larger-scale system restructuring is also considered to enhance efficiency and international competitiveness. This can be done, for example, by promoting institutional mergers, fostering the differentiation of institutional profiles or creating excellence hubs through specific funding schemes. As a consequence, in many countries in the EU and its Neighbourhood, funding schemes for universities are under revision.
EUA has analysed the related consequences on university funding and governance, in particular the impact such measures have on the institutions themselves, on their teaching and research activities, as well as on their interaction with society and different stakeholders. EUA provides continued support and expertise to institutions and systems in addressing such changes.
EUA keeps a close eye on public funding for Europe’s universities its Public Funding Observatory captures the very latest trends impacting Europe’s universities and offers the most up-to-date information on dozens of different higher education systems across the continent. The data is laid out in a series of reports and an interactive online tool, which is updated annually. The Observatory provides a unique international benchmarking tool and is used by policy makers and sector representatives alike to support the national dialogue on university funding.
The monitoring is conducted in close cooperation with EUA’s collective members, the national rectors’ conferences, which regularly provide extensive funding data on their countries and report on trends developing within their national higher education systems.
The EUA Funding Forum is a biennial European event for university leaders and managers, policy-makers, as well as researchers, to share, learn, grow and improve in strategic governance and funding matters.
Notably, the Funding Forum seeks to:
In a context of constraint and competition for public resources, funding efficiency and accountability of public spending are highly important. Linking public funding to institutional performance is an idea that often features in discussions on university funding policy at both the national and European level. Policy makers often see performance-based funding as a useful tool in connecting funding to measurable indicators. The expected result is more transparency in spending, as well as a clear way to incentivise and reward the achievement of certain policy goals.
Through its work, EUA has revealed that the expectations of performance-based funding are often too high and should therefore be used with caution. On the positive side, it can help increase the transparency of funding allocation and the accountability of public spending as it links funding to measurable indicators and achievements. Performance-based funding might also support profiling and the strategic positioning of universities.
EUA’s “University Efficiency Hub” is an online portal that allows university practitioners and policy makers across Europe to share knowledge and hands-on experience on efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in the field of higher education. It provides information on national frameworks as well as institutional good practices and a self-evaluation tool for universities to move forward in their strategy.
“Excellence funding” refers to public funding schemes whose main objective is to foster excellence. It primarily concerns large-scale initiatives in which public funding is directed to universities on a competitive basis and is focused on the development of wider institutional strategies.
Public authorities may choose to implement such measures for a variety of reasons, including enhancing international visibility, improving the quality of research or teaching, and better matching supply and demand in the higher education market.
However, in a context of constrained resources, excellence schemes are also meant to increase funding efficiency. They often lead to the concentration of funding by creating hierarchies between institutions.
EUA has analysed these schemes and their significant impact both on institutions and on higher education systems in “Designing Strategies for Efficient Funding of Universities in Europe”.
An overarching objective to achieve better rules for participation in the EU funding programmes is "simplification”. This is an important dimension given its direct impact on universities. EUA has consistently advocated for a more impactful approach to simplification focused on beneficiaries and their specific needs. This approach is mindful of their great diversity and based on high-quality processes and an effective use of resources. In this context, EUA has argued for the wider acceptance of nationally recognised institutional management and accounting practices of beneficiaries as the key implementation principle and the most significant way to enhance efficiency and participation in the EU funding programmes. EUA has collected evidence on how these principles were implemented in 12 countries in a report that explores possibilities for a better alignment of practices between the EU and the national level. In order to achieve this, EUA summarised the data gathered in the compendium in concrete strategic and practical recommendations addressed to EU policy makers.
Other important elements of the Framework Programme implementation supported by EUA’s campaign include a more flexible model grant agreement and more efficient and effective auditing processes. On these matters, EUA relies on its members’ technical expertise shared through EUA consultations and surveys, as well as through a dedicated expert group of university administrators.
EUA has fed this input to the European Commission and the European Court of Auditors in the framework of bilateral exchanges and expert groups, as well as to the European Parliament and the EU Council ahead of the adoption of the legislation establishing Horizon Europe.
EUA’s “EU funding for universities” campaign was geared towards attaining improved funding conditions for universities at the European level. The campaign focused on achieving a decision in the EU’s post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework that is favourable to investment in higher education and research and innovation. EUA was specifically advocating for a higher budget for the 9th Framework Programme (Horizon Europe) and the Erasmus+ programme.
Activities in this campaign focused on two areas:
As European leaders work towards an agreement on the European Union’s next seven-year budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework, and the related Next Generation EU recovery plan to help the EU’s economy back on its feet, EUA and 14 partner university associations reiterate the urgent need to invest in research, innovation and education to achieve long-term, sustainable recovery and strategic resilience.
The European Commission’s new proposal for the next seven-year budget of the European Union together with the Next Generation EU recovery plan falls short of much needed investment in research, innovation and education.
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