University Autonomy in Europe

European University Association, University Autonomy in Europe, 2017.

In order to be successful, universities need to be able to take their own decisions. The University Autonomy Tool lets you compare university autonomy in 29 European higher education systems. It focuses on four autonomy areas and ranks countries according to the level of autonomy they have in each of these. The site has been updated and describes the state of university autonomy in 2016.

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France. Recent developments

  • New law passed in 2013 introducing changes in university governance, including a reshaping of governing bodies and their responsibilities
  • Change in accreditation body and approach (validation of externally conducted evaluations)
  • Ability of universities to recruit students at Master level as of 2017
  • Re-configuration of the sector through concentration measures, including university communities and full-scale mergers

Organisational autonomy: medium low

Governance matters are significantly regulated by the state, including selection criteria, term of office and dismissal of the executive head. Governance structures include external members, partly appointed by the university. Institutions cannot fully decide on their academic structures but may create legal entities.

Financial autonomy: medium low

Universities receive an annual block grant, with limited possibility to move funds between pre-set categories. Universities can borrow money with the approval of an external authority. Some universities own their real estate and may sell their buildings. The level of tuition fees for all types of students studying at all levels is set by the state.

Academic autonomy: low

Admission to Bachelor’s programmes is entirely regulated by an external authority, while universities have gained the capacity to recruit students at Master level. All new degree programmes must be submitted to a prior accreditation to receive funding. Universities cannot choose either external quality assurance mechanisms or providers.

Staffing autonomy: medium low

The number of senior academic posts is regulated by an external authority. Recruitment for some senior administrative positions is also carried out externally on the basis of national competitions. Salary bands for all staff are prescribed by an external authority. Dismissal procedures are strictly regulated due to civil servant status of most staff. There are restrictions on promotions for all staff.

Commentaires. L’Association Européenne des Universités fait l’hypothèse d’un lien étroit entre l’autonomie des universités et leur succès, leur performance. La France est mal classée pour chacun des champs retenus par l’EUA pour mesurer l’autonomie. Vu les faibles niveaux d’autonomie qui y sont observés (moyen bas ou bas), les universités du pays devraient se trouver en échec sur de nombreux points. D’où la demande de davantage d’autonomie soutenue par la plupart des candidats à la présidentielle.

Un petit rappel historique. Les universités de France ont, depuis la loi Faure de la fin 1968, une autonomie en matière statutaire, financière et pédagogique. Pourquoi l’autonomie n’a-t-elle pas davantage été osée par les équipes de direction universitaires ? Pourquoi sont-elles toujours à l’affut de réglementations pointilleuses ?

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