Higher education experts seek to improve sustainability, efficiency and equity

23 September 2013, Last updated at, 15:52 EEST
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author: Martynas Ambrazas

Directors responsible for the Higher Education will discuss the EU Member States issues in systems of higher education and exchange best practise in the experts meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania on the 23-24th September.

The question of how best to fund higher education has risen on the political agenda in many EU Member States in recent years, as growing student numbers and a need to invest in quality have placed pressure on traditional funding models. In this context, politicians and policy makers face two core questions: is the higher education system receiving enough resources overall to allow it to function well and is the money that is going into the system being well spent?

The Modernisation of Higher Education Agenda was elaborated by the European Commission in a landmark communication in 2011 in which funding were identified as the one of the main challenges facing higher education systems and institutions.

The February 2013 Council Conclusions responding to the Commission's Communication on "Rethinking Education" call upon Member States to prioritise, and where possible strengthen, investments in education and training, "while working to enhance the efficiency of such expenditure and stimulating national debates on sustainable and balanced funding mechanisms, involving a broad range of stakeholders".

The objective of this Directors responsible for the Higher Education meeting is to contribute to national and EU-level debates on higher education funding, by taking stock of current developments and discussing effective ways to address the issues of sustainability, efficiency and equity.

Overall in the EU in 2010, an average of 17.3% of the income of higher education institutions came from private sources, with the share of public funding ranging from around 25% in the UK to over 95% in Denmark and Finland. Eurostat data show investment in higher education has at least kept pace with student numbers in nearly all EU countries over the last decade. At the same time it shows considerable variation in investment levels with the highest levels of spending seen in Sweden and Denmark and the lowest in Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania. The question where does the money come from and is there enough will be one of the main topics in the Higher Education Directors Meeting.

It is not enough to get the funding for Higher Education. We need to know how we can get the most from the money spent and how to ensure social equity. Measuring the "efficiency" of a higher education system involves assessing the quality of outputs produced for each unit of human and financial resource invested. This assessment depends on how desirable outputs or outcomes of a higher education system are defined and how they are measured. What are the practises in EU countries and what can we learn from each other? Higher Education Directors Meeting will offer the opportunity to discuss these important questions.

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