Cuts of more than 5% were imposed in Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Portugal, while Estonia, Poland, Spain and the UK (Scotland) saw decreases of 1 to 5%. However, five Member States increased education spending by more than 1%: Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden, as well as the German speaking area of Belgium. Germany and the Netherlands did not provide data for the period since 2010.
Spending trends vary in other Member States, with some increasing their budgets one year then decreasing them the next, or vice-versa. Belgium (French speaking community), Cyprus, Latvia, Finland, France, Ireland, Slovenia and the UK (Wales), as well as future member Croatia, increased their education budget in 2010-2011, but reduced it in 2011-2012. It was the opposite case in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, which cut education budgets in 2010-2011 but increased them in the subsequent period. The Flemish community of Belgium kept their budget stable in both years.
"These are difficult times for national treasuries but we need a consistent approach on public investment in education and training because this holds the key to the future of our young people and a long-term sustainable economic recovery. If Member States fail to invest properly in modernising education and skills, we will fall further behind our global competitors and find it harder to tackle youth unemployment," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
The study analysed funding at all levels of education, from pre-primary to tertiary level, in 35 national and regional education systems. It shows that, in 2011 and 2012, teachers' salaries and allowances were reduced or frozen in 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain). Teachers' pay accounts for more than 70% of education budgets.
The cuts have also resulted in reductions in the number of teaching staff in 10 Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and UK). As well as the impact of the crisis, a decrease in student numbers was also a factor in the staff cuts. On a brighter note, funding for teacher training increased in 18 European countries – a significant development given the link between teaching quality and students' results.
Public sector support for pupils and students such as grants, loans and family allowances, were not affected in the majority of countries in 2011 and 2012. Eight Member States (Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Portugal) offer specific financial support for unemployed or low-skilled people to improve or renew their skills. In most cases these investments are matched by the European Social Fund.