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EU 2016 budget deal: overall positive outcome for universities

On Saturday 14 November 2015, the negotiators of the European Parliament and European Council agreed on the EU budget for next year. This agreement comes before the end of the limited conciliation period when both institutions have to reach a compromise, denoting that the 2016 budget will be implemented in time. Considering the wider economic and political context and pressures on the overall EU budget, the outcomes regarding Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, two EU funding programmes of major importance to European universities, can be regarded positively.

While the overall budget is slightly lower than in 2015 (-4.5%), Horizon 2020 funds are to remain stable next year with 9.54 billion Euros in commitments. Throughout the negotiation process, EUA has shared its views and arguments with the European Parliament helping it to keep up a strong position in favour of the programme, which has allowed avoiding significant cuts. Importantly, the “societal challenges” pillar of Horizon 2020, which promotes collaborative research across Europe, is further strengthened compared to 2015, while this particular area of the programme had been targeted by previously proposed cuts. The other pillars of Horizon 2020 record a slight decrease in comparison to 2015, bringing the overall programme funds to stability (in terms of commitments). When considering payments, Horizon 2020 funds are set at 10 billion Euros, which represents an increase of 11.6% in comparison to 2015.

It should nevertheless be borne in mind that Horizon 2020 funds were projected to increase year-on-year for the period 2014-2020, as foreseen in the EU’s multiannual financial framework and that while cuts related to the establishment of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) have been avoided this year, it remains a cause for concern. Therefore EUA will continue to monitor the developments and inform its members on a regular basis.

In parallel, the promised increase for the Erasmus+ programme has been confirmed, with a further reinforcement of the lines regarding the promotion of excellence and cooperation in the European education and training area and its relevance to the labour market. This means the programme funds are increased (in commitments) by about 7.8% compared to 2015, while payments are projected to increase by slightly over 30%. In total 1.73 billion Euros in commitments and 1.8 billion Euros in payments will be available for the programme co-funding mobility and cooperation in education, training, youth and sports.

To seal the compromise the Council and the European Parliament have to formally adopt the budget, which is foreseen on 24 November and 25 November respectively.

Colleges and Universities

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