University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Crisis has made Europe's universities weak

Cash-strapped European universities have less control over their own strategy

European universities now have less autonomy, and will therefore have a harder time picking themselves out of the rubble of the financial crisis.

This is one of the conclusions drawn by the European University Association (EUA) in an update that adds to a recent University Post overview of the European situation here.

European governments are not only cutting public funding as a result of the economic crisis. They are changing the way it is provided to universities, the EUA reports.

Funding yes, but only if …

Universities are increasingly taking orders from government, and the accounting and paperwork is killing university initiatives.

»Public funding is increasingly provided subject to conditions to its allocation or accompanied with growing accountability requirements,« the EUA writes.

Too much government meddling into universities will prevent them from overcoming the crisis successfully, according to the EUA. Instead, it recommends that European universities have »the freedom to allocate their funds strategically, and protect those areas that are crucial to the fulfilment of their institutional missions.«

Most countries have cut

The EUA warning will strike a chord in a Danish context as it comes a month after University of Copenhagen director Jørgen Honoré stated that his university faces a financial abyss at year-end 2011: The government has still not taken a decision on key earmarked funding for universities from the Danish so-called Globalisation Pool.

In Europe, 75 per cent of universities’ funding comes from government. European government reactions to the economic crisis range from major cuts to this funding, to the discarding of previous funding commitments, the EUA writes.

While some governments like in France, and some regional länder governments in Germany, have actually increased their funding since the onset of the crisis, most countries have cut. See the fact box on the right for an overview.

Look at Latvia

If some European universities think they have it bad, they can always look to Latvia for comfort: Latvian universities were struck down by a 48 per cent drop in funding in 2009 only to have to cut a further 18 per cent in 2010.