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Public Policy

EUA’s activities supporting public policy development include:

  • influencing public and governmental decisions at European level,
  • representing universities’ interests through policy monitoring and influencing political processes and decisions at European level. 

EUA represents the interests of more than 850 universities and higher education institutions. EUA informs its members about new developments and European policy processes that affect higher education and research. Simultaneously, it provides a point of contact, advice and expert public backing for the European institutions – the European Commission, Parliament and Council – which are active in the field of education and research.

Through its work and contacts with the EU institutions and other key decision-makers as well as with other stakeholders in the sector, EUA seeks to ensure that universities’ interests are taken into account in all relevant policy areas, by providing input and advice on their behalf regarding the development and revision of a range of European policies, programmes and funding instruments. The input provided by EUA is based on comparative research and reports using information collected from members that in turn can be used as evidence-based input into European policy debates on issues crucial for universities.

See also EUA’s policy positions and press releases.


To voice the opinion and concerns of European universities and to provide input to the debates on EU initiatives and proposals, the EUA policy units and communication team work together to develop public relations campaigns.

EU funding for Universities

In order to protect universities from further funding cuts, the campaign focuses on three aspects:

  • Sufficient funding (overall level and cost coverage)
  • Sustainability of funding conditions (grants instead of loans for academic research and education)
  • Simplification of funding schemes (implementation; management; reduction of administrative burden for beneficiaries).

Find all the information regarding the campaign.

European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – 2014-2016

Horizon 2020 european research budget cut

A new tool proposed by the European Commission in 2014, EFSI is meant to overcome the current investment gap in the EU by mobilising private financing for strategic investments. To provide funding for this tool, the Commission proposed to shift significant resources away from Horizon 2020, the main research funding programme of the EU.

EUA carefully studied the proposal and rallied the university sector to protest against the planned cuts. It launched a multi-phase campaign, addressing all key stakeholders in cooperation with its member National Rectors’ Conferences. The campaign included a series of statements and newsletter articles, ensuring high visibility in the media; an analysis of the EFSI proposal summarised in a policy brief; contacts and meetings with high-level decision-makers, etc. An overview of these actions can be found here.

In June 2015 the EFSI regulation was fully adopted with notable changes, including the cancellation of the cuts foreseen for some of the actions of the Horizon 2020 programme, after the university and research stakeholders were heard by the different actors.

In June 2016, EUA published a review entitled “One year of EFSI: What's in it for universities? An EUA review”, and found that there seems to be no benefit for universities – even though the scheme was created with funds taken from Horizon 2020.

In January 2017, EUA published the brief “EFSI and Horizon 2020: Efficiency and Opportunity Cost - An EUA Review”, analysing the key reviews and exploring the relationship between EFSI and Horizon 2020. The Association concluded that evidence on the first year of EFSI activities reveals worrying trends linked to the potentially overrated efficiency and effectiveness of public investment through this scheme, the lost opportunity for other key RDI programmes such as Horizon 2020 and multiple side effects including geographical imbalances in investment into regional development.

EU Annual Budget

EUA monitors the annual EU budget procedure as it directly affects the sums allocated to important programmes for universities, including Horizon 2020, Erasmus +, structural funds, etc. While the overall figures are set for seven years via the Multiannual Financial Framework, the yearly allocation matters because significant shifts can be operated. For 2016 this procedure is all the more relevant as the budget has to integrate the changes linked to EFSI (see above). EUA has pledged to pay particular attention as to how “unused margins” are reallocated to limit cuts to research funding, and continues to work closely with the European Parliament on this issue.

Horizon 2020

EUA has represented the interests of the university sector throughout the negotiations leading to the adoption and implementation of Horizon 2020, the largest research funding programme of the European Union. Find out more about EUA’s position on Horizon 2020 here.

By following closely European developments in higher education and research, EUA is able to develop policy positions on key topics for universities that can then be brought to the attention of relevant decision-makers. The European Commission, as initiator of EU legislation, is a key interlocutor for EUA. Higher education falls under the competence of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, and research under the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. The Commission develops policy in these areas notably by promoting objectives and through funding programmes. The Commission drafts legislative proposals such as Horizon 2020 or Erasmus+ that are then submitted to Council and to the European Parliament.

In these processes all the European institutions make use of expertise provided by external parties. Large umbrella organisations such as EUA have an advantage as they represent the views of a large number of diverse members in many European countries, thus making them an important partner able to provide Europe-wide knowledge and experience important for European decision-making.

The relationship between the Commission and EUA involves both formal and informal contacts, including for example open consultations inviting comments on specific documents, participation in expert groups and meetings. The European Parliament is another very important partner for EUA, as parliamentarians also seek advice from practitioners. For example, during the negotiations on Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ EUA worked closely with the respective Committees and MEPs presenting the views of universities on a range of issues. 

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
Avenue de l’Yser, 24
1040 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0) 2 230 55 44

Geneva office:
114, Rue du Rhône
Case postale 3174
1211 Geneva 3
Tel: +41 22 552 02 96