VILNIUS – Several reforms have been introduced to higher education systems in Europe in the past few years because of reduced public funding, as thirty Directors-General responsible for higher education in the EU/EFTA member states discussed in their meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 23 and 24 September. Their discussions focused on issues such as sustainability, efficiency and equity of higher education.
It became clear that the most popular approach to the financial crisis was to introduce a performance-based goals based on an agreement between the governments and the higher educational institutions in those countries. Those agreements are often concerned with the quality and achievements of the institutions. One of the key questions raised during the meeting, was how sustainable funding and access to higher education could be ensured simultaneously, addressing reforms related to the modernisation of higher education in Europe.
Tuition fees are a bad funding source
The European Students’ Union (ESU) attended the meeting and explained how public funding was instrumental in keeping higher education as a public good and public responsibility. Several interventions were made at the meeting, suggesting that tuition fees could be used as a source of income, a view that ESU has firmly opposed. They can have significantly negative consequences for the social dimension of higher education and also on students' debt.
“Judging from the conclusions of the meeting, it was clear that funding of higher education is a very much a national issue and that governments are not prepared to delegate any responsibilities regarding this to EU. However, the meeting also concluded that it would be useful to discuss issues related to the financing of higher education as a peer-learning exercise and to share good practices. We hope that the further discussion will focus on how public funds for higher education can be increased and how to prevent that countries use the backs of students as means to solve the financial crisis,” says Rok Primozic, ESU´s Chairperson who attended the meeting.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.