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Universities’ Funding: Growing Systems under Pressure

VU International News and Reviews No. 103 December 18 2017

December 2017

The EUA has published an update on its Public Funding Observatory with an interactive online tool and a new downloadable Public Funding Observatory 2017 report. The EUA started with this observatory in 2008, to monitor the impact of the crisis on university funding.  It contains data on 34 countries, with separate information for the constituent parts of the UK.

When looking merely at university funding, 7 of the 9 ‘Aurora’ countries seem on the positive or neutral side, with only England and Scotland showing decreasing funding. But when set against rising or falling student numbers, only Sweden and to a lesser extent Norway show sustained university funding against student numbers. In Germany, Flanders, the Netherlands, and France increased funding doesn’t make up for student growth. In Iceland, Scotland and most significantly in England, a rise in student numbers accompanies a decrease in public university funding. In all fairness, it must be noted that in England, overall public spending on HE increased significantly while public spending on universities decreased: the impact of the publicly-subsidized loan-based tuition fees.

Zooming in on more recent figures (2015-16), the EUA report shows over 5% increase in funding for Iceland, between 1 and 5% increase for Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and France. On the downside are Scotland and more significantly England with still continuing decreases – still noting the tuition fees for the UK. Flanders and Sweden show little or no changes in public funding over 2015-16.

In general terms, the EUA report notes that the divide between better-funded and poorer funded universities is getting wider within Europe

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