Economic crisis splits EU education

Nieuws | de redactie
12 juni 2012 | The economic crisis threatens to widen divisions across Europe in terms of public investment in higher education. The European University Association (EUA) warns that certain European universities will be cut off from European research programmes as a result.

EUA’s monitoring of the economic crisis has shown widelydivergent trends in public funding for higher education across thecontinent and worrying signs that higher education funding in manycountries in eastern and southern Europe is more affected by thecrisis than in many countries in northern and western Europe(although there are notable exceptions). 

The impact of the economic crisis is just one of severaltopics related to the future of university funding that is beingdiscussed during the EUA Funding Forum currently from 11-12 June atthe University of Salzburg in Austria.

HE affected differently

EUA’s Public Funding Observatory, monitoring the effect ofthe economic crisis on higher education (carried out since 2008),has shown that while national systems have been affected verydifferently across Europe, no national higher education system hasbeen left completely unaffected. Even those HE systems which havehad no cuts or very minor cuts in public funding are facing a rangeof other pressures and challenges (such as increased studentnumbers, increased use of co-funding by public authorities anddifficulties attracting additional income sources).

??A number of countries mainly in the south and east of Europe,some of which already have lower overall public investment levels(as a % of GDP) in higher education, have made major or substantialcuts in higher education budgets since 2008. EUA believes thereforethat this poses the risk of creating deep divisions acrossEurope.

Hardest hit

Latvian HE is worst affected with 57% budget cut between 2008and 2010, Lituania suffers a staggering -26% in 2012 while PortugalHE has to swallow -22% in 2012 compared to the yearbefore. The Netherlands and Ireland have relative high HEexpenditure but continue to struggle with cuts in the range of5-10%.

Concerning research funding the EUA mentions the abolition ofthe fund for economic structural reinforcement in TheNetherlands.

Risk of ‘brain drain’

This trend could also risk provoking a ‘brain drain’ oftalented researchers from these countries, and could make it harderfor universities in these countries to participate in Europeanfunding programmes, such as the research Framework Programme (FP7),which work under the principle of co-funding (i.e. the universitymust provide funding alongside the European funding forprojects).

EUA’s work on university funding has already shown thatEuropean-level funding programmes are becoming increasinglyimportant income sources for European universities. EUA believestherefore, that the next generation of European research programmesshould not only take the economic context into account but also thelong-term financial sustainability of Europe’s higher educationsystem and fund activities on a full cost basis.

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