Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Crowded Houses: Are EU Students Feeling the Squeeze?

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Crowded Houses: Are EU Students Feeling the Squeeze?

Article excerpt

Student-to-staff ratios are often used by higher education experts and politicians as a measure of a university's teaching quality. Jack Grove examines how much class sizes and spending per student vary across Europe


14 students per academic

[euro]16,500 spent per student

0.9 academic per support staff

Learning in small classes has long been a strong selling point for UK universities. But concerns have been raised about overcrowding at some institutions after two consecutive years of student number growth.

However, an extra 8,660 academics were employed in 2013-14 compared with 2012-13 as the number of teaching staff appeared to keep pace with student number rises.

The UK is one of the few countries where non-academic staff outnumber academics. A total of 396,000 people are employed in the higher education sector in 2013-14, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.


12 students per academic

[euro]6,975 spent per student

2.1 academics per support staff

Spain invested heavily in higher education between 1998 and 2008, with spending per student matching the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average by the end of this period.

Like other EU countries, budget cuts in the wake of the eurozone crisis have hit funding since 2008.

Despite the country's small student-to-staff ratios, relatively few international students study in Spain, just 74,000 in 2013 compared with the UK's 425,000. Its recent abolition of state entrance exams for foreign students may improve these numbers, ministers believe.


33 students per academic

[euro]8,164 spent per student

0.9 academic per support staff

Italy's student-to-staff ratios reflect its low spending on higher education, with its per student spending well below the OECD average between 1998 and 2008. Public expenditure on higher education has also been hit by the global financial crisis since 2008, with academic staff numbers falling by 10,000 to 54,000 between 2009 and 2012, according to state figures. University reforms were passed in 2010, but Italian institutions continue to perform poorly in rankings, which often consider staff-to-student ratios. Just one university - the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa - featured in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-15.


42 students per academic

[euro]545 spent per student

2 academics per support staff

Crisis-hit Greece has one of the worst student-to-staff ratios in Europe.

Amid austerity measures imposed after its 2010 bailout by the EU, all parts of the public sector have faced massive cuts, with higher education funding halved in real terms between 2009 and 2014, the EUA says. Some universities say that reductions among support personnel have made it almost impossible to run institutions because of a lack of security staff, technicians and librarians.

Eight universities, including the University of Athens, closed temporarily in 2013, citing a lack of staff to operate their institutions.


19 students per academic

[euro]11,729 spent per student

1.4 academics per support staff

France's relatively high student-to-staff ratio may be partly explained by its admissions policy. Universities are banned from selecting students and must admit anyone who passes the school-leaving Baccalauréat. …

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