Europe's universities have been warned they risk barring the middle classes from higher education if they try to bridge the funding gap by increasing tuition fees substantially without tax concessions.
Increased fees are one of the options being considered by a number of European governments to meet the widening gap between falling state support and rising costs partly due to increasing demand.
But Francoise Thys-Clement, pro-rector of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, told the CRE Association of European Universities meeting in Aarhus, Denmark: "It seems to me that correcting the insufficiency of university funding by a notable increase of academic tuition fees, without simultaneously modifying the whole tax system, brings on the risk of speeding up the phenomenon of inter-generational inequity and, furthermore, could lead to a genuine barrier barring the middle class from higher education."
In an analysis of alternative sources of funding, Professor Thys-Clement identified the European Union as having great potential as a funder. She questioned why the EU should heavily subsidise agriculture while the commission emphasised the essential role of human capital, education and research in the regeneration of European economies.