Institutions fear EU funding will fall short

October 12, 2007

Commission proposals to establish European Research Area gloss over chronic underfunding, says European Universities Association. Chloe Stothart reports. University heads have voiced fears over the European Commission's latest blueprint for a single European Research Area.

Responding to a Commission Green Paper on the ERA, the European Universities Association said that the historic problem of underfunding in Europe's universities, compared with their main global competitors, was understated.

The association, which represents 780 universities in 46 countries, called on the Commission to honour an earlier communication, The Modernisation Agenda for Universities . In that, the Commission stated that the aim across Europe should be to devote 2 per cent of gross domestic product (including both public and private funding) to higher education and research by 2015.

The EUA's response criticised the "insufficient priority" given in the Green Paper to fundamental research. It said there was a need to strengthen the role and resources available to the newly established European Research Council to enhance research excellence in Europe.

It complained that there was no reference to full-cost funding for research, which institutions believe is necessary to sustain quality research.

Georg Winckler, rector of the University of Vienna and president of the EUA, said: "Europe's universities are a central pillar in building the ERA through their main responsibility for providing the supply of trained researchers and through their core missions in fundamental and collaborative research.

"In performing these major functions, Europe's universities play a crucial underpinning role in enhancing the economic competitiveness of Europe. The EUA expects, therefore, that Europe's universities as key stakeholders in the European Research Area will be brought fully into the process."

The EUA paper also defended its members' roles in the social and human sciences.

It said: "Universities are also the unique environments in which interdisciplinary skills are being developed to tackle the complex challenges facing human, social and economic development in the 21st century."

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