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European University Funding and Financial Autonomy

de Dominicis, L., Pérez, S. E. & Fernández-Zubieta, A. European University Funding and Financial Autonomy. A Study on the Degree of Diversification of University Budget and the Share of Competitive Funding. European Union, Luxembourg, 2011. ISBN 978-92-79-19716-1. Pages: 30.

Given the changing funding landscape of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the recent publication from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission – Institute for Prospective Technologies (JRC-IPTS) examines the scope to which research-oriented higher education institutions are active in schemes such as competitive funding and financial autonomy.

The study chronicles 200 research-intensive higher education institutions from 33 European Research Area (ERA) countries. Based on the authors’ research, the report draws several key findings:

  • 70% of the total university income from the respective institutions comes from government allocations, approximately 6% is from private companies, around 3% comes from non-profit sectors and approximately 2% from abroad. The remaining 19% belongs to a miscellaneous category labelled ‘Other';
  • large variance exists within individual countries in regards to the shares of government funds allocated competitively; and
  • considerable variance exists amongst institutions within individual national systems with regards to university research budgets.


The report also offers policy-relevant conclusions. Namely, institutional financial autonomy is positively and inversely correlated to increasing shares of governmental competitive funding, but is only applicable to those institutions that label themselves as completely autonomous. Moreover, the findings suggest that national or institutional climates which do not promote full financial autonomy seem less likely to produce real change in diversifying university funding.

Joint Research Centre of the European Commission – Institute for Prospective Technologies (JRC-IPTS)