Universities perform better if they are better funded and more autonomous, within a framework of accountability. The evidence is overwhelming. The added value in competences brought about by the education of students as well as the performance in research benefit from more autonomy, whether it is in recruitment, promotion, salaries and perhaps dismissal of staff, or in financing by borrowing and lending or carrying over funds from one year to another, in the organization of universities looking for models which empower staff according to an agreed strategy or in policy with respect to the types of degree programmes the university wants to deliver. Accountability is then to be focused on results of universities (value added in competences and research performance) rather than on throughput or organization.
Yet the international knowledge on autonomy and university performance hardly plays a role in political decisions on the Governance of universities. Governments see the short run costs of improvements in Governance as too high compared to the long run benefits in improving education and research. The short run costs are due to the changes in Governance structures. These are bound to upset the interests of the conservative part of the university staff and the students who have a voice in university Governance.
Universities in EU member states are key to future productivity and competitiveness. They can only fulfill this role if universities are becoming more autonomous and better funded.