Presentation of Thomas Estermann EUA
Presentation of Thomas Estermann EUA
Trends in University Autonomy
in Europe and Ireland
Director Governance, Funding and Public Policy
850 members in 43 countries
Why university autonomy
The state of university autonomy in
Europe/Ireland: data – trends – scorecards
Why university autonomy?
Positive correlations exist between autonomy and:
degrees of income diversification
efficiency and effectiveness
allows universities to decide on strategic priorities according
to their strengths;
does not automatically lead to better performance, but it is
an important prerequisite.
is a complex concept that consists of various interconnected
is contingent on the diverse cultural, political, legal and
historical backgrounds of Europe’s HE systems
cannot be measured objectively
There are diverse systems, even within countries
There is not just one model – context is very important
The Autonomy Scorecard:
had to take into account constantly changing legislative
frameworks and at times contradictory policy developments
had to simplify complex situations
Methodology of the Autonomy Scorecard
The scoring system:
is based on deductions → restrictions on institutional
autonomy are assigned a deduction value based on
how restrictive a particular regulation is seen to be;
produces percentage scores for each indicator;
calculates the score for one autonomy dimension as an
average of the scores for all indicators making up that
criteria for rector
•Length/ type of
•Keeping a surplus
fees for non-EU
•Dismissal/ term of
office of rector
fees for national/
Staffing autonomy - trends
Recruitment procedures are less prescribed than before.
In most systems, restrictions still apply to staff salaries,
although these are less likely to be due to the civil servant
status of university staff.
Staff dismissals and promotions remain restricted in more
than half of the systems studied.
The financial crisis has affected staffing policies in some
Staffing autonomy – the scorecard
Staffing autonomy issues now
The financial crisis has affected institutional autonomy
The Employment Control Framework has reduced staffing
autonomy in all indicators and effects other dimensions as
Salary bands are prescribed at central level
Additional restrictions and lower salaries at entry level for
Reductions in salary through between 6-14% gross
Increased taxation, larger pension contributions, and other
social charges impacts on salaries
Staffing autonomy 2014
Increased deductions on
recruitment, salaries and
promotions. Change in collective
agreements on dismissal.
Financial autonomy – trends
Universities generally receive their public funding as a block
grant, although its allocation may be restricted.
Surpluses can be kept and money borrowed in a majority
of systems, but in practice, various limitations still apply.
Universities in most systems are able to own their
buildings, but often require external permission to sell them.
The situation is complex, but universities tend to be more
free to set tuition fees for MA and non-EU students.
Financial autonomy – the scorecard 2012
Financial autonomy issues now
Earmarking of parts of the block grant for specific purposes should
be kept to minimum as well as top slicing
Institutions should be able to keep a surplus
Funding linked to student numbers requires reflection
Capacity to borrow money could be more flexible
Universities should have a longer funding period
Discussion on fees for national and EU students at Bachelor level
Financial autonomy 2014
Higher deduction to reflect
increase in top-slicing from
Organisational autonomy - trends
External members are now included in university
governing bodies in a majority of systems, though external
authorities often remain involved in their selection.
Universities in nearly all systems are free to create legal
entities and decide on academic structures.
Rectors are always chosen by the universities, although
external authorities often have to confirm the appointment.
Organisational autonomy – the scorecard 2012
Organisational autonomy issues 2014
Organisational autonomy in IE is advanced but:
more advanced countries have more flexibility in composition of
governing bodies and smaller bodies
Threats to academic structure if legislation over staff numbers is
Regulation on employment in legal entities should be made more
Organisational autonomy 2014
Change due to further deduction on
capacity to decide on academic structures
and further deduction on capacity to create
Academic autonomy - trends
Overall student numbers are limited in nearly all systems.
Universities in Europe still have little freedom in choosing QA
Accreditation is still compulsory for BA/MA programmes in a
majority of systems.
The language of instruction can be chosen freely in approx.
2/3 of all systems.
Ireland is the most autonomous system evaluated in the
=> No change in 2014
Academic autonomy – the scorecard 2014
Other autonomy issues 2014
Universities Act in principle strong framework for autonomy – but
danger of reduction through additional legislation or threats of
emergency legislation to force compliance.
General direction of state policy towards increasing control of
universities has intensified.
Declining public budget and increasing state control in relation to
Draft legislation regarding ministerial directives, national labour
agreements has the capacity to significantly impact on university
Binding decisions of the Labour Court have an impact on institutions
without their involvement.
Other autonomy issues II
Strategic dialogue and performance contracts should not be taken
out of the core funding
These apply for the first time for 2014/2015 and funding was held
back by the HEA on that basis
Public service reforms (e.g. shared services initiatives, central
procurement, employment control framework, etc.) have an
impact on universities' ability to manage their own affairs
(individually and/or collectively)
The introduction of a National Research Prioritisation Exercise that
orients competitive research funding towards 14 priority areas
reduces scope for internal strategic decision-making.
9-10 October 2014, Bergamo, Italy
Strategies for sustainable funding of universities
Thank you for your attention!
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