Towards Evidence-Based Reform of European Universities

Posted: 2 Jul 2008

See all articles by Rick van der Ploeg

Rick van der Ploeg

University of Oxford

Reinhilde Veugelers

Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) - Department of Applied Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: June 2008


After the Bologna agreement and the Lisbon Agenda, reform of European university systems has been higher on the political agenda. This is necessary, since most European universities have been suffering from stifling blankets of government regulation, having to make do with much less funds than their North-American counterparts and do not appear high on the various rankings of top universities in the world. Furthermore, the booming economies of China and India will nurture and boost world-class universities in the coming decades. Also, universities are essential in their links to business and society to make the European economy more innovative and competitive, especially as European industries approach the world technology frontier. We argue on the basis of the stylized facts that foremost European universities need more autonomy to select students, reward staff, design new programmes, attract more funds and compete better in an increasingly tough environment. Although the general principles of the policy reform agenda are clear, the details are not. The link between governance, funding and performance is not obvious and needs still further data and research. We conclude that reform of European universities should much more be based on the best available empirical analysis. (JEL code: I23)

Keywords: University reform, governance, autonomy, funding, competition

Suggested Citation

van der Ploeg, Frederick and Veugelers, Reinhilde, Towards Evidence-Based Reform of European Universities (June 2008). CESifo Economic Studies, Vol. 54, Issue 2, pp. 99-120, 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Frederick Van der Ploeg (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Manor Road Building
Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3BJ
United Kingdom

Reinhilde Veugelers

Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

Leuven, B-3000
+32 16 32 6908 (Phone)
+32 16 32 6732 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

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