How much money goes into Europe’s universities?

Almost a decade has passed since the financial crisis broke out, but universities across Europe are still feeling the pinch. While budgets were preserved or even increased in some countries, they were cut drastically in many others.

Between 2008 and 2015, public funding to universities increased in 11 countries across Europe but declined in 13 others.

Norway and Sweden are ‘frontrunners’ when it comes to increasing university funding, but countries like Spain and Ireland have made drastic cuts while the number of students has grown.

As governments decrease financing, they raise pressure on universities to obtain funding from other sources, including from the EU and the private sector. But universities find it harder to obtain EU funds which tend to be oversubscribed.

Universities applying for grants under the EU’s multi-billion Horizon 2020 research programme typically have a low success rate in the first calls for proposals.

This places additional strain on national education systems, inhibits academic behaviour, lowers motivation and ultimately leads to waste in top research ideas.

Despite the overall progress in simplification, Horizon 2020 is still associated with a high administrative burden related to application, participation and project administration. Universities have to adapt and set up special procedures to respond to the evolving legal and administrative requirements of the Framework Programme.

On the brighter side, the European Commission says funding for Erasmus, the EU’s celebrated student mobility scheme, has increased over time, with more students benefiting from the programme than they did years ago.

Universities are now calling for more sustainable and simplified funding schemes with less administrative burdens wherever possible in order to support their activities.  

Sources: Eurostat, European University Association

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