The European University Association has released a full comparative analysis of the state of play of university autonomy in 29 higher education systems in Europe. The report, published in May 2017, complements the presentation of the main outcomes of the Autonomy Scorecard which was revealed at EUA’s annual conference “Autonomy and freedom: The future sustainability of universities” held in April 2017.
The extensive study, marking ten years of EUA work on university autonomy profiles and scores 29 higher education systems and is a central reference in discussions and analyses of institutional autonomy. It has been used for example for the EUA coordinated ATHENA project to further improve autonomy, governace and funding in Armenia, Moldova and the Ukraine and in many national policy dialouges – both in Europe and beyond. The wealth of information collected over the years is also used to help institutions establishing the conditions for strategic institutional management.
The report covers university autonomy in organisational, financial, staffing and academic matters, and compares data for all indicators that constitute EUA’s Autonomy Scorecard. It allows readers to get a full overview of the state of play and of the recent developments for each of these fields – assessing the capacity of universities to decide on issues as diverse as tuition fees, governance structures, recruitments and salaries or language of instruction and student numbers. The report ranks systems for each autonomy dimension in a special Scorecard. It also uncovers trends for each area, highlighting improvements and causes for concern.
While some countries have achieved a relatively high degree of university autonomy in all or most of the four dimensions considered, the Scorecard helps to recognise that there is no unique model to foster autonomy. Countries scoring high in at least three dimensions include models as diverse as that of Finland, Luxembourg, Estonia or the UK (England).The report also reveals, predominantly, a persisting lack of a global view on university autonomy when designing and implementing reforms. In addition, the challenging economic context impacts autonomy in different ways, beyond financial matters. Finally, public authorities are found to exert stronger steering through funding mechanisms, while concentration processes, like mergers, raise new questions for university autonomy.