Will Europe throw a lifeline?

Nieuws | de redactie
14 juni 2013 | Horizon 2020’s new funding rules threaten the research infrastructure, says the European University Association (EUA). Only 7 EU countries show a funding increase in 2012 compared to 2008. The others are struggling.

EUA believes that the option for reimbursement (of research costs) based on full costing methodologies – which has been initiated in the current FP7 Research Framework programme –should be continued in the Horizon 2020 programme. Furthermore, they should also be strengthened by taking into account universities’ usual accounting practices.

The latest edition of EUA’s public funding observatory highlights that in countries where cuts are taking place, funding for infrastructure has been one of the most affected areas and it is likely that this trend continues. Ageing facilities and equipment will necessarily trigger increasing costs for institutions and deteriorate teaching and research environments.

EUA’s latest observatory report concludes as follows:

  • Out of the 17 systems where data was available, nine reported an increase in funding (Austria, Iceland, Czech Republic, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Belgian French-speaking Community, France, Lithuania), while eight reported cuts which range from small cuts to up to 25% (Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Croatia, Portugal, UK – England and Wales, Greece, Hungary). In the last group staff and infrastructures were the two areas most affected. 
  • Inflation has had a significant impact on the financial situation of universities and therefore should be taken into consideration when assessing the financial health of the sector as a whole. Adjusted for inflation, a more serious picture is revealed: only seven systems out of 20 have a better funding situation in 2012 than in 2008 (Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgian French-speaking Community, France, Netherlands), while 13 systems have a lower funding level in 2012 than in 2008 (Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, United Kingdom – England and Wales).
  • The report also analyses the evolution of public funding to higher education institutions as a percentage of GDP for the period 2008-2013. In 18 countries studied, eight had in 2013 a higher investment as a percentage of GDP than in 2013 while 10 saw a lower investment.

Adequate funding rules needed

For the financial sustainability of Europe’s universities it is important that the future European funding programmes, in particular the Horizon 2020 programme currently being negotiated, provide funding rules that cover the costs for university research infrastructure in an adequate way.

EUA’s call for retaining a reimbursement option based on full costing methodologies, in addition to the proposed flat rate model, was echoed in a statement this week from the German Rectors’ Conference.

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