“We don’t need no education” - trends of the education budgets of 2015 in the EU

If you want to truly know someone’s priorities, just take a look at their financial statements. By looking at the spreadsheets you can easily see where the money goes, as the priorities are the filters for them. The top priorities are the first to absorb the incoming funds. Less and less money will go to the lower categories, until you reach zero. Shuffling the priorities may result in budgetary increases or decreases in comparison to the previous years.

The majority of politicians agree without hesitation that education is important, and we need to invest in the development of skills, competences and knowledge of our next generations, as well as strengthen investment in people’s growth. This is being echoed by the multiple strategies, agendas, political priorities… However do education and lifelong learning really stand out amongst the priorities?

On 7 January 2016 Eurydice published a report showing the public planned education budgets for 2015. The national sheets present an overview of the planned education budgets by type of expenditure and level of education. The budget is generally decided by the national/regional parliaments or other equivalent bodies on an annual/multiannual basis. It is important to understand that the focus is on the planned expenditure – not actual expenditure.

When comparing the evolution of planned national education budgets from 2014 to 2015 at constant prices, it appears that the trends can be divided into five categories:

  • Increased by over 5 %: Spain, Latvia, Hungary, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden
  • Increased between 1 % and 5 %: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, France, Croatia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Iceland
  • Increased or decreased below 1 % (budget remains stable): Belgium (French and Flemish Communities), Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Austria, Finland and the United Kingdom (England).
  • Decreased by more than 1 % : Belgium (German-speaking Community)
  • Decreased by more than 5 %: Greece, Slovenia and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)
  • Germany, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia did not take part in this data collection.

The above mentioned report presents the national efforts to support public education systems, where the moderately positive evolution of the planned national education budgets (with 16 countries/regions increasing their national education budget by at least 1%) is shown. However, four countries/regions still made cuts to their education budget, which in Greece, Slovenia and Northern Ireland was by more than 5%. SOLIDAR believes that everyone should have equal access to quality and public education. Underfunding jeopardises education as a public good, and contributes to increasing inequalities and commodifying education and training. The principle of social justice should apply to education and training which should therefore be accessible to everyone. Lack of investment in education and training resulting from austerity measures or a shift in financial priorities will have a negative impact on granting equal educational opportunities for all.

Education and training go beyond the limits of obligatory public education. SOLIDAR Foundation advocates for substantial investment in education and lifelong learning as this is a real investment in people’s empowerment to fully participate in the society. We need education and lifelong learning, not only as a tool for the labour market, but to develop skills, competences and knowledge to better contribute to the society we live in and to exercise economic, cultural and social rights.

Related content