The university sector must use the window of opportunity provided by the EU recovery plan (Next Generation EU), to present sustainable solutions for campus development and innovation, proposing green and digital institutional transformation projects. As the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a real threat to the sector, EUA reiterates that the recovery plan offers a chance to invest in higher education and research and bridge the years of investment gaps without losing sight of the alignment of different funding schemes.
The European Commission expects most member states to start spending money from the recovery fund this summer. To do this, governments must submit their national recovery plans by the end of this month (April). The instrument allows the European Commission to raise up to €750b (2018 prices, €800b in current prices) to fund Next Generation EU, the biggest part of which comes through the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Next Generation EU disbursement procedure
The European Commission could start borrowing from the markets only after the first national recovery plans are approved and adopted, and the Own Resources Decision (the legal basis of the Recovery and Resilience Facility) is ratified by all 27 member states. As of mid-April 2021, 10 member states still need to ratify the decision. Transfers could start taking place in the second half of July 2021, assuming that the aforementioned legal conditions are fulfilled.
If there are not enough resources for all the pre-financing requested, some member states will receive payments in July, while others will receive them in September. According to the European Commission, the decision on who receives the money first will be based on which member state receives the best score in the evaluation of its national recovery plan.
The Next Generation EU Diversified Funding Strategy, presented on 15 April 2021, gives a detailed overview of the different funding instruments and techniques that will be used by the Commission to finance the recovery plan.
Where can universities engage?
As EUA previously indicated, the university sector must play an important role in the development of future oriented resilience. It is of utmost importance that universities are engaged on national level by putting forward concrete proposals on how they can contribute to the recovery effort.
National recovery plans are based on a set of criteria that considers the country-specific recommendations (from the European Semester) and, among others, the effective contribution to green and digital transitions (precisely, the extent to which each national plan contains 37% green and 20% digital objectives).
This topic will be at the centre of discussion in the upcoming EUA webinar on university funding towards 2030, which will focus on the latest university funding trends in Europe, addressing the question of alignment of funding policies and instruments to support university financial sustainability.
EUA will continue to make the case for university involvement and will keep its members abreast of any political developments and funding opportunities. A detailed briefing for EUA members is available upon request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.