Higher education European funding Service
Although higher education in Europe has traditionally been strongly dominated by public provision and government regulation, recent developments have changed this scenario in recent decades, and all around the globe, private higher education has been experiencing a notable growth. Private institutions still play a small role in many European systems and its emergence is taking place against a background of large and consolidated public sectors and that will certainly influence its profile. Market-focus and privatization has also been playing an increasing role in funding mechanisms and funding sources for higher education. After several decades of expansion, societies and governments are less willing to put additional public resources into Europe’s higher education system due to a variety of trends, such as the rising cost of higher education; financial austerity; and a changing view about the role of the state and the nature of public services.
The insights drawn from past experiences of European integration suggest that the effects of market integration are complex and that the benefits may be unequally distributed. Moreover, the analysis of other processes of economic integration in Europe indicates that the peculiarities of a sector play an important role in steering the effects regarding the convergence and divergence, and the concentration and dispersion of activities. In the case of higher education, the current picture is somewhat blurred, but some trends suggest that the fears of concentration are real. This is especially significant in the areas that we tend to associate with the prestige and reputation such as research activities, with the allocation of the most competitive funding being concentrated in a small number of countries and institutions.
Figure One – Per cent of total European Research Council grants by country 2010
Note: Northern Countries – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland Southern – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece
Central and Eastern – Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Romania
We can gain insights on this concentration by examining grants awarded by the generous and highly competitive European Research Council, that are awarded in a competitive basis to scholars either in an early stage of their careers or in a more advanced stage for a period of 5 years. Figure One above shows the distribution of research grants over the last 5 years by countries and groups of countries. The data indicate that some countries are clearly far more represented in these grants than others. The UK is clearly the leading country, followed by Germany and France. Size of the country and of the higher education and research system does not seems to be decisive criteria, with some smaller countries capturing a significant share of grants, notably The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Israel. Some parts of Europe show a much lower aptitude to compete for those attractive grants, such as those in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Even the Northern countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Ireland) show a less than impressive performance.