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.
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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” (available as of October 2018) 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”.
The simplification of the university funding landscape is a complex matter in national and European contexts. In an environment characterised by scarce resources, it has become a strategic priority, as it has the potential for channelling resources back to the completion of the universities’ core mission in higher education and research.
EUA defines simplification as the achievement of a coherent set of rules that is mindful of the diversity of actions and beneficiaries accommodated in a programme, and that ensures both high-quality processes and an effective use of resources.
At the European level, the wider acceptance of nationally-recognised institutional management and accounting practices of beneficiaries constitutes the most significant way to enhance efficiency and participation in the programme.
As part of its campaign “EU funding for universities”, EUA shows that impactful simplification lies in reducing the gap between the different accounting practices required by the various funders.
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:
EUA’s “EU funding for universities” campaign is geared towards attaining improved funding conditions for universities at the European level. The campaign focuses 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 is specifically advocating for a higher budget for the 9th Framework Programme (Horizon Europe) and the Erasmus+ programme.
Activities in this campaign focus on two areas:
Addressing Europe’s key challenges and ensuring sustainable development requires the EU to have a well-functioning budget and to revisit its investment priorities. Cooperation in research and education is a key facilitator in achieving these goals and should therefore be a top investment priority for the Union in the future. The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP), the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and Erasmus+ (E+) are important tools in channelling such investment, make it available to beneficiaries and provide a framework for cooperation.
As the European Union prepares the next generation of EU funding programmes for the post-2020 period, budget discussions are increasingly geared towards performance, European added value, trust and efficiency. Simplification is a cornerstone in the debate as it is seen as a way to achieve these goals, lower entry barriers to programmes (thus improving participation throughout Europe), and overall to maximise the impact of EU funds.
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