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  • German A. Ramirez

Financing and Internationalization of Higher Education in Europe (Part 2)

As indicated in our last entry, in this post we briefly comment on the EAIE Barometer findings related to financial constraints to internationalization. The survey identified both ‘internal challenges’-those barriers that an institution faces from within, and ‘external challenges’- those barriers that originate from outside the institution.

On the internal front, the lack of internal funding is considered to be the most important challenge for close to 40% of respondents across the EHEA. This finding is associated to the lack of staff support (probably encompassing staff at decision-making levels) reported by 38% of respondents as the second most important internal challenge, followed by the lack of internal recognition and the lack of international scholarship opportunities (27%).

On the other hand, when looking at external challenges, the lack of external funding is also seen as a main challenge by 31% of EAIE respondents, followed by international competition (28%) and national legal barriers (27%). The perception of insufficient external underfunding is more acute in Spain 48% and Poland 41%. In addition, some respondents saw the perceived high cost of living of certain geographies like Finland (60%), Denmark (30%), the Netherlands (30%), and the UK (25%) as an obstacle.

Perceptions of insufficient external funding contrast sharply with the fact that the European Commission allocated €14.7bn to the Erasmus + program for the 2013–2020 period, and lend support to the preliminary conclusion that money is not a real impediment for European institutions having more and better internationalization. Despite the extended opinion that having more money is always better, internationalization in Europe enjoys robust external funding and the region continues to be a pioneer in designing and implementing effective mechanism to overcome legal, financial and academic hurdles. It seems that going forward the challenge is more about assessing and redefining existing programs and its specific goals, and implementing ways to measure success for individuals and institutions alike.

Finally, the lack of respondents' more explicit references to the financial dimension of internationalization in Europe points in at least two directions: a) the relative good health of the welfare state and the predominantly public nature of university funding-via budget appropriations- across European nations; and b) a sort of political correctness coupled with ideological bias that prevents university leaders from addressing financial matters in the overt way seen in the US or Australia, where internationalization has long being characterized and pursued as a “market opportunity”. Thus, the EAIE is timely in asking if Europe may be missing out some of the financial benefits related to internationalization by not talking about it? We will see.

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