New data on improving the social dimension in higher education in Europe


Eurydice published a report “Towards equity and inclusion in higher education in Europe” in order to give a clear account of the current level of attention being given to equity and inclusion in higher education in European systems. It analyses how aligned European higher education systems are to the ten agreed Principles and Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Dimension of Higher Education in the EHEA as Annex II of the Rome Ministerial Communiqué. There are ten chapters, each one addressing a different principle and providing an overview of the data collected. The data used comes from Eurydice National Units, which represents 38 education systems across 36 European countries.

Based on Principle 6, governments should “provide sufficient and sustainable funding and financial autonomy to higher education institutions enabling them to build adequate capacity to embrace diversity”. However, the report found that public spending on higher education between 2013-2018 decreased for the majority of countries, with only Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Norway showing a noticeable positive trend of increased public investment in higher education. Furthermore, when assessing public funding on the basis of equity targets, only France and Italy award public funding for targets set in relation to widening access, increasing participation or completing higher education. These targets are particularly important for reaching vulnerable, disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, and ensuring that there is diversity amongst student and staff.

However, it is encouraging that public investment in support for training on diversity and inclusion to academic and administrative staff is more prominent across Europe. Under the principle relating to staff training, public authorities “should support and provide adequate means to higher education institutions to improve initial and continuing professional training for academic and administrative staff to enable them to work professionally and equitably with a diverse student body and staff”. Data showed that ten higher education systems provide financial support to higher education institutions in order to train staff on diversity and inclusion. Additionally administrative or logistical support and trainers on diversity are provided to the universities in another ten countries.

Furthermore, Eurydice also assessed systems where teacher training programmes provide opportunities to acquire competencies on dealing with diversity and equity challenges for trainee and qualified teachers at all education levels. The report found that 22 higher education systems require that initial teacher training programmes of all education sectors include training on equity, diversity and inclusion. Training on these issues through continuous professional development programmes is also available in 26 countries. But these are often optional for teachers, and were only mandatory in Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, and Albania.

Eurydice found that no country that was evaluated had mandatory training requirements for higher education institutions in training academic and administrative staff on diversity and equity. Only in seven countries the government recommend the higher education institutions to carry out diversity and inclusion training. These findings are indicative of the lack of support by higher education institutions for training staff on diversity and equity. This could be explained by the shortage of policy dialogue on the implementation of the Principles and Guidelines. Eurydice found that Croatia and Finland are the only two countries that have established a specific policy forum dedicated to the implementation of the ten principles. Social dialogue on the issues take place within an already established national higher education policy body or forum in another eight countries. But for the remaining 28 countries, no policy dialogue on the implementation of the Principles and Guidelines has been established.