Go back

University systems suffered substantial cuts in past decade

Image: Images Money [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Analysis finds persistent cuts to public funding

Universities in Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia and Spain have all suffered sustained cuts to their public funding that run deep into double-digit percentages over the past decade or so, according to an analysis by the European University Association.

Since 2008, cumulative cuts of more than 30 per cent have been enacted in Lithuania, of more than 20 per cent in Serbia, of about 20 per cent in Spain and of about 15 per cent in Italy, the EUA reported on 20 February.

“Some ad hoc improvements” have been implemented in Estonia and Spain in more recent years, report authors Enora Bennetot Pruvot, Thomas Estermann and Veronika Kupriyanova said, but they added that “these countries are still quite far from offsetting their previous cuts”.

Serbia has also seen improvements, while “positive signs” in Italy could see a recovery in funding provided that investments are consolidated over the next few years, the report said.

In the UK, Wales has suffered an even more severe decline of about 50 per cent, while funding in Northern Ireland has fallen by more than 10 per cent, the EUA reported.

Other countries cut public funding for universities after 2008, when Europe was in the grip of a financial crisis, but have almost or entirely restored it, the EUA found. These include Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

By contrast, the EUA found a decade of “sustained growth” in other countries—of more than 30 per cent in Germany, Norway and Switzerland and more than 20 per cent in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Funding in Luxembourg was found to have more than doubled.

“The data confirm the signs of the gradual improvement of public funding for universities in Europe since 2015,” the report said.

However, even in 10 countries with higher public funding in 2018 than in 2008, investment has not kept pace with growth in student numbers, the EUA found.

Italy was the only country found to have cut funding for universities at a greater rate than its economic decline.

Research, teaching, infrastructure and staffing funding trends were all generally positive in 2019, the EUA reported. England and Scotland were, however, found to have suffered in these areas.