The European University Association (EUA) released its Public Funding Observatory report which monitors the impact of the economic crisis on universities and identifies trends in public funding to higher education institutions across Europe since 2008.
The report confirms that while no system has been left completely unaffected by the crisis, there is still a risk of a widening gap in terms of university funding between different parts of Europe. Many countries in Eastern and Southern Europe still appear to be more affected by the crisis than many countries in Northern and Western Europe although there are notable exceptions.
Austria, Iceland, Czech Republic, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Belgian French-speaking Community, France, and Lithuania reported an increase in funding, while Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Croatia, Portugal, UK – England and Wales, Greece, and Hungary reported cuts which range from small cuts to up to 25 %.
Looking at the inflation-adjusted public funding figures only Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgian French-speaking Community, France, and the Netherlands have a better funding situation in 2012 than in 2008. Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom – England and Wales have a lower funding level in 2012 than in 2008.
The EUA warns that such divergent trends decrease the potential for cross-border academic and scientific cooperation and put the completion of the European Higher Education and Research Areas at risk. It could also risk provoking a “brain drain” of talented researchers from these countries and could make it harder for universities in these countries to participate in European funding programmes which work under the principle of co-funding, i.e., the university must provide funding alongside the European funding for projects.
European Funding schemes, like Horizon 2020, therefore, need to take account of these trends and establish appropriate funding rules.