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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

No uniform university autonomy trends, scorecard finds | University World News

"Four higher education systems have emerged at the very top of the latest European University Association autonomy scorecard." inform Karen MacGregor, one of the founding editors of University World News, and is currently its Global Editor and director of the Africa Edition.

Finland scored 90% or higher across three of four autonomy dimensions, followed by England, Estonia and Luxembourg in two dimensions.

England is the only system in the ‘high group’ of countries – those scoring 81% to 100% – across all dimensions, and it was number one with 100% for organisational autonomy.

Estonia tops the scorecard for both staffing and academic autonomy, and Luxembourg is number one for financial autonomy. But Luxembourg – which is unusual in having only one public university – is also at the bottom for organisational autonomy.

Other systems that score 90% or above across one of the four dimensions are Denmark, the French-speaking community in Belgium, Latvia, Sweden and Switzerland.

It has been 10 years since the European University Association or EUA started to collect data on university autonomy, to lay the basis for a Europe-wide comparable database on the four key aspects of autonomy – organisational, financial, staffing and academic autonomy.

University Autonomy in Europe III – The Scorecard 2017 was published on 2 June, authored by Enora Bennetot Pruvot, programme manager at the EUA, and Thomas Estermann, EUA director of governance, funding and public policy development.

The scorecard analyses and compares autonomy across 29 countries and, writes EUA President Rolf Tarrach in the foreword, it offers more qualitative information than before, allowing description of developments that cannot be measured or scored.

“The analysis reveals that there is no uniform trend towards university autonomy in Europe. The present update uncovers the diversity of settings in which universities evolve,” he says, and EUA monitoring shows that the topic continues to be heavily debated across Europe.

“In a tense international political environment, promoting university autonomy as a core principle continues to be highly relevant and important, as attempts to limit or undermine it can take many forms. Therefore, the EUA Autonomy Scorecard seeks to support a structured, fact-based dialogue, in partnership with the sector and public authorities.”...

The report identifies several types of developments:
  • A minority of systems have implemented changes in more than one dimension.
  • Systems that feature rather high in some dimensions have prioritised ‘weaker’ areas.
  • The priority given to one or the other dimension of autonomy also depends on a series of contextual elements, including the financial situation and characteristics of the system.
  • Larger centralised systems face particular challenges when seeking to design and implement reforms enhancing university autonomy.
  • A challenging economic context negatively impacts on university autonomy.
  • However, the approach towards university autonomy in systems with substantial underfunding may be different, with authorities granting universities notably more autonomy in financial matters, giving them freedom to pursue other funding streams.
  • Steering by the state is increasingly expressed through funding modalities (more frequent use of performance-based funding, multiannual contracts) or via accountability requirements.
The report urges a holistic approach to university autonomy. “The objective should remain to meaningfully enhance institutions’ ability to build strategic profiles – through the development of their academic offer, supported by proper financial management capacity, adequate human resource strategies and a reflection on the governance model.”

Successful reform implementation, it stresses, requires adequate resources, so universities can mobilise new expertise to respond to challenges that come with enhanced autonomy.
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Source: University World News