Joint Research Centre - European Commission

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On average, 70% of the research-active universities' income comes from the Government© Mary Gober (marygober) / stock.xnchg

Universities with greater financial autonomy are less vulnerable to public sector cuts


European universities with the greatest financial autonomy (i.e. the capacity to allocate funds internally) have the most diversified sources of income. This makes them less dependent on a single income stream and therefore less vulnerable to cuts in government funding.

This is one of the main findings of the report "European University Funding and Financial Autonomy", which was published today by the JRC's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies.

The study, based on a selected sample of 200 research-active universities across 33 countries in the European Research Area (ERA), also reveals that universities with greater financial autonomy have a higher share of competitive government funding.

Government remains the main funding source for European research-active universities, accounting for close to 70% of total university income. Out of this, block grants represent approximately 80% and competitive funds approximately 20%. Universities from the UK and, in general, technical universities have the highest share of competitive government funding.

The study also reveals large differences, within a country, in the share of competitive government funding amongst universities. Universities that are particularly successful in obtaining competitive government funding in their country include the University of Cambridge in the UK, the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, the University of Florence in Italy, and the Universities of Leiden and Wageningen in the Netherlands.

Background information

This report has been prepared by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in the frame of ERAWATCH, a joint undertaking with the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). It is a strategic intelligence service designed to support evidence-based policy making in the field of research and innovation in Europe. It aims to contribute to the realisation of the European Research Area by providing a better understanding of national and regional research systems and the environment in which they operate.

In November 2008, DG RTD set up an independent expert group in order to report on the impact of external research funding on financial management in universities. The expert group suggested a set of recommendations calling for consistent funding conditions for research institutions within the European Research Area as well as financial modernisation of European Universities. This report contributes to those goals.