Education surviving the Euro crisis
The report “Funding of Education in Europe” looks at the trends in education spending over the period 2000-2012 and examines the recent impact that the financial and economic crisis has had on education budgets across Europe in 2011 and 2012. The analysis covers the developments in education funding from pre-primary to tertiary level, while also providing an overview of the main trends in the adult learning sector.
“Governments are seeking ways to reduce budget deficits and manage public debt without dismantling the foundations of sustainable growth. While no direct link can be established between the level of funding of the education systems and student’s learning outcomes, there is a general understanding that investing in high quality education and training should continue to be a priority. Nevertheless, the sector is not immune to austerity measures, particularly in countries where the need for short-term fiscal consolidation is greatest,” the Eurydice report writes.
Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland
So, how has the crisis impacted budgets for education? Not surprisingly, the education budgets are most heavily affected in countries with large public deficits, think Spain, Greece etc., but also the UK. In 2011 Cyprus was still doing well, and being one of the few that its education budget with almost 2 percent. Romania made a large investment as well and increased the educational budget with 3.5%. However, this was done after a significant reduction of the education budget. Like the figure shows, the investment champions of 2011-2012 were Luxembourg, Malta, and Turkey; they raised their budget with more than 5 percent.
What are the results of the crisis on education, are the European school classes a lot bigger than before the economic crisis? No, in most countries the number of teachers followed the fluctuations of the number of students, in Italy and the UK however, teacher numbers declined by 8.5 percent and 4 percent respectively, while student numbers continued to increase. The number of teachers decreased in one third of the countries, the main cause was a fall in student numbers, but the reductions in public funding for education also contributed.
In some countries the light at the end of the tunnel is still very weak. Cyprus anticipates cutting current education expenditure by at least 3 percent, and that are numbers from before the current banking crisis on the island. Portugal intends to reduce spending by 3.5 percent and in Wales capital expenditure is expected to be halved between 2010 and 2015. Luckily there is good news as well, in eighteen European countries, funding for continuing professional development increased in line with the general policy objective of improving teachers’ skills.
Students keep their funds, for now…
The percentage of funds for the public financial support of students in the European Union increased between 2000 and 2009. This is mainly caused by a rise in financial assistance for tertiary education students, which grew from 13 percent to 17.4 percent of the education budget between 2001 and 2009. “Financial support for students is one of the key ways to ensure high levels of participation in education, especially for disadvantaged groups of students”, says the Eurydice report.
From 2010, although the majority of countries have kept their general arrangements in place for student support, they still have applied restrictions to other financial assistance schemes. Eight countries lowered support arrangements available to students. In some cases, the reduction was due to a fall in the number of potential beneficiaries (in the case of child allowances), or to a restructuring of the criteria for grant allocation.
Despite the crisis some countries still devote more than a quarter of their education budget to financial support for students in higher education: Denmark, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Norway. The largest supporter of students Cyprus, spent 55.6 % of the total budget to student support, this is because of the high costs of funding the large number of students who study abroad.
Wishes for 2013
Many countries want to use their resources more efficiently. Other common policy priorities are the development and funding of specific programs to improve the employability of people, particularly those who left education without qualifications. For example, strengthening the links between funding and the quality of education provided is wanted in the Czech Republic. In Spain they want to develop initial professional qualification programs so that all students have the opportunity to leave education with good job prospects, and Finland wants the prioritizing of early school-leavers and unqualified people in admissions to upper secondary education.
The teaching profession has to get more attractive as well in the coming years, according to the given answers. Some countries formulated very specific goals for the coming years. Latvia aims to increase teachers’ salaries through improving the remuneration system by linking it to teachers’ performance. And Poland wants to increase the basic minimum salary of public higher education staff by more than 9 percent a year over the years 2013-2015, and President Hollande hopes to create 60.000 teaching jobs in the next five years.
The entire Eurydice report can be downloaded here