Sufficient, Sustainable and Simple EU Funding for Universities

  • Stronger EU investment

  • Sustainable funding conditions

  • Impactful simplification

Stepping up EU-level investment in research, education and innovation

National public authorities, and in particular ministries of finance must support higher investment in research, education and innovation at the EU level. In the context of the negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework, they must be convinced of the added value of higher investment in this sector at both the national and EU level.

EUA has developed material summarising the arguments in favour of EU-level investment in research and innovation and in higher education. The “Reasons to step up EU-level investment in Research & Innovation” and "Reasons to step up EU-level investment in Higher Education exchange and cooperation" are available as two-pagers and as individual postcards that can be used on social media. The material is available to national rectors’ conferences in a format can be adapted to their national context.

EUA has also joined 14 European universities associations to call for an ambitious Horizon Europe budget that would invest in excellent, cross-border research and innovation. The call specifically asks the EU institutions and leaders to strengthen the R&I investment at European level by raising the budget of the next EU Programme for R&I (2021-2027), Horizon Europe, to at least €120 billion. 300 universities, national actors and companies active in the European Union signed the call between July and October 2019, pushing leaders at national and EU level to commit to a higher budget for education, research and innovation.

Sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness

The significant underfunding of Horizon 2020 has led to a critically low success rate and heavily weighs on the overall efficiency of the funding landscape.

Participation remains expensive for universities, challenging their long-term financial sustainability. In particular, coverage of indirect costs tends to be insufficient. Horizon 2020, and possibly Horizon Europe in the future, cover indirect costs via a flat-rate of 25% of direct costs, offering limited support to institutions. This can be a barrier to participation, especially for less funded institutions in Europe. In this context, EUA calls on member states to provide sufficient and sustainable national public funding for education, research and innovation, which is paramount to support the participation of universities in Horizon Europe and enable them to co-fund the projects.

The overall efficiency of the EU funding programmes is also challenged by the excessive costs of administrative processes, both on the funder and the beneficiary sides, as well as gaps or inconsistencies that prevent effective synergies between funding schemes. EUA therefore calls for progress towards the possibility of combining funding schemes (among EU programmes or with national or other types of funding).

Achieving impactful simplification

"Simplification” activities have a direct impact on universities, as the overarching objective is to achieve better rules for participation in the EU funding programmes.

EUA understands simplification as the achievement of a coherent set of rules, 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.

EUA argues for the wider acceptance of nationally-recognised institutional management and accounting practices of beneficiaries as the most significant way to enhance efficiency and participation in the programme.

EUA collaborates with its members to work towards simplification that has a positive impact on universities. A dedicated group provides expertise from university administrators while all universities are invited to share their experience in EUA consultations and surveys.

The report “Accepting university accounting practices under Horizon Europe: a compendium of national and institutional cases” collects practical information based on the experiences shared by university practitioners from 12 European countries. The report explores possibilities for a better alignment of practices between the EU and the national level. In order to achieve this, the data gathered in the compendium have been summarised in concrete strategic and practical recommendations addressed to EU policy makers.

EUA feeds 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 proposal establishing Horizon Europe.

  • Education and Finances Ministerial Council meeting8 November
  • New European Commission in Place1 December
  • European Council - Possible deal on Multiannual Financial Framework12-13 December

In the second semester of 2019, EU member states are expected to reach an agreement on the bloc’s financial plan for 2021-2028. It is therefore now important to launch a new phase of collective action to raise the visibility of the sector in these negotiations and remind our decision-makers about the importance and added value of investing in research, innovation and education at the European level. In line with our collective actions of last year, we propose a set of actions and supporting material for a pan-European university campaign.

Actions proposed to EUA members

  • Write to ministers of finance and foreign affairs
  • Communicate on on the value of EU investment in research, innovation and education at sector level involving member institutions
  • Liaise with your National Rectors’ Conference

EUA material

EUA has developed the following material for you to use, take inspiration from, or adapt to your needs:

  • Bullet points for media releases
  • Template letter for the ministers of finance and foreign affairs
  • Updated visuals (postcard format) summarising our key messages (Why it is worth investing in R&I and education at the European level; Why the EU, as a global leader, must invest in talent.
  • For social media activity: one hashtag to unify and monitor the campaign: #unlockEUfuture
  • EUA’s Public Funding Observatory also provides useful information and material for the argumentation at national level (benchmarking of relative position of the country in Europe)


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