Universities are important in catering to the needs of today’s rising knowledge societies. Beyond the traditional work of teaching and producing research and innovation, higher education institutions are tasked with various roles and face new challenges. These include evolving student populations, a changing labour market resulting in the need for continued professional development, and challenges to university autonomy in how to address such trends.
EUA is dedicated to supporting universities in their efforts to make successful decisions on the issues affecting them, especially in areas such as management, funding, human resources and academic profile, both in the EU and in its Neighbourhood. Within the last decade, several university governance reforms have taken place, both within national systems and inside the institutions themselves, regarding the relation between universities and public authorities and internal university organisation.
While acknowledging that there are different models for these reforms, the dialogue developed through EUA’s comparative approach outlines the basic principles and conditions that universities need to have in order to best fulfil their missions and tasks.
Promoting institutional autonomy as a core principle continues to be highly-relevant and important, as it supports university values. In a tense political environment, attempts to limit or undermine autonomy can take many forms. Through its work and tools, EUA supports a structured, fact-based dialogue on governance, autonomy and efficiency, in partnership with the sector and public authorities.
University executives are political and academic leaders who manage a complex community and are responsible for fostering the development of the institution and its financial sustainability. The Covid-19 crisis amplified the need for university leaders and managers to inspire a vision and the dynamics of change, while creating consensus and gaining the endorsement of all constituencies.
This has been particularly important in countries where autonomy reforms have concentrated powers in central university leadership. The level of autonomy that universities in Europe have today in designing their governance models along the lines of their missions and societal expectations varies greatly. Universities require:
The EUA Autonomy Scorecard features extensive information on the current state of university autonomy and governance reforms in Europe. By gathering, comparing and weighing data from higher education institutions across the continent, EUA provides in-depth benchmarking of national policies with regard to university autonomy and the exchange of good practices. Since its creation, the Scorecard has become a reference point in discussions about university autonomy in Europe and beyond.
The Autonomy Scorecard is made up of a comparative summary report, an online tool & and individual country profiles.
The online tool lets you compare university autonomy in 29 European higher education systems. It focuses on four autonomy areas and ranks countries according to the level of autonomy they have in each area.
EUA has worked on the topic of efficiency through the USTREAM project. By examining the measures that are in place at universities across Europe to enhance efficiency in various settings and by analysing policies at the system level that support universities in their efforts to operate more efficiently, EUA was able to identify good practice examples and develop recommendations for further development. More broadly, EUA’s work in this area addresses efficiency, effectiveness and value for money at European universities in a comparative way. The Association takes a novel approach to the topic by tailoring it to the specificities of the higher education sector and breaking it down into three thematic dimensions: efficiency in professional, operational and support services; efficiency in academic matters; efficiency through strategic governance.
The USTREAM partners have developed an “efficiency self-evaluation tool” (The University Efficiency Hub), which supports higher education institutions in the assessment of their efficiency programmes and activities. The tool allows university practitioners and policy makers across Europe to share knowledge and hands-on experience in efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in the field of higher education. It provides information on national frameworks as well as institutional good practices and a self-evaluation tool for universities to move forward in their strategy.
Mergers and concentration processes are becoming increasingly frequent as the higher education sector is faced with the double impetus of more competition and stronger cooperation, especially in a period following the global financial crisis. More recently, in systems that have been hit heavily by the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions have emerged about whether mergers and restructuring can constitute an adequate policy response to address the financial difficulties. Collaboration frameworks cover a wide array of activities and can become quite complex. In order to succeed, merger processes need the right conditions.
EUA has analysed this in the report “Designing strategies for efficient funding of universities in Europe” and has developed a tool to map institutional mergers in the university sector across Europe.
EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, during the European Research and Innovation Days in September 2020, stated that excellence and inclusiveness are two sides of the same coin in the new European Research Area (ERA). EUA welcomes the European Commission’s Communication “A new ERA for Research and Innovation” released on 30 September 2020 as a starting point to making this ambition a reality.
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