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UK universities most autonomous in Europe

The UK is ranked in the top three on all four university autonomy scorecards published by the European University Association on 15 November.

Several Southern European countries including Greece and France have low scores in all four categories, the EUA report “University Autonomy in Europe II—the Scorecard” reveals.

But the division between highly autonomous universities in Northern European countries and less autonomous universities in the East and South is not as marked as it used to be, says Thomas Estermann, one of the report’s authors and head of unit for governance, autonomy and funding at the EUA.

For example some countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic, have higher autonomy scores than could have been expected, Estermann told Research Europe Today.

In addition, not all countries have the same degree of autonomy in the four dimensions measured: organisational, financial, staffing and academic autonomy. Norway for instance is ranked second out of 28 in terms of academic autonomy, but comes in 20th position in terms of financial autonomy.

“The four areas are interlinked,” Estermann says, adding that governments should consider all four dimensions when they implement policies.

European universities generally enjoy more autonomy in terms of staffing than in other areas, “but there are still a lot of restrictions on staff salaries,” Estermann adds. “This can act as a considerable obstacle when seeking to attract talented academic and administrative staff in a competitive international environment,” the EUA says.

The two-year project was funded by the European Commission and carried out with rectors’ conferences in individual countries.