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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 21 March 2013

Education budgets under pressure in Member States

Investment in education fell in eight out of 25 Member States assessed as part of a European Commission study on the impact of the crisis on education budgets since 2010. Cuts of more than 5% were imposed in Greece, Hungary1, Italy2, Lithuania and Portugal, while Estonia, Poland3, Spain and the UK (Scotland) saw decreases of 1 to 5%. However, five Member States increased education spending by more than 1%: Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden, as well as the German speaking area of Belgium. Germany and the Netherlands did not provide data for the period since 2010.

Spending trends vary in other Member States, with some increasing their budgets one year then decreasing them the next, or vice-versa. Belgium (French speaking community), Cyprus, Latvia, Finland, France, Ireland, Slovenia and the UK (Wales), as well as future member Croatia, increased their education budget in 2010-2011, but reduced it in 2011-2012. It was the opposite case in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, which cut education budgets in 2010-2011 but increased them in the subsequent period. The Flemish community of Belgium kept their budget stable in both years.

"These are difficult times for national treasuries but we need a consistent approach on public investment in education and training because this holds the key to the future of our young people and a long-term sustainable economic recovery. If Member States fail to invest properly in modernising education and skills, we will fall further behind our global competitors and find it harder to tackle youth unemployment," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

The study analysed funding at all levels of education, from pre-primary to tertiary level, in 35 national and regional education systems. It shows that, in 2011 and 2012, teachers' salaries and allowances were reduced or frozen in 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain). Teachers' pay accounts for more than 70% of education budgets.

The cuts have also resulted in reductions in the number of teaching staff in 10 Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and UK). As well as the impact of the crisis, a decrease in student numbers was also a factor in the staff cuts. On a brighter note, funding for teacher training increased in 18 European countries – a significant development given the link between teaching quality and students' results.

Public sector support for pupils and students such as grants, loans and family allowances, were not affected in the majority of countries in 2011 and 2012. Eight Member States (Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Portugal) offer specific financial support for unemployed or low-skilled people to improve or renew their skills. In most cases these investments are matched by the European Social Fund.


The study, entitled 'Funding of Education in Europe: The Impact of the Economic Crisis', focuses on:

  • the economic context

  • public expenditure and national budget developments in education

  • trends in staff funding (salaries and allowances)

  • national budgets for educational infrastructure and support systems

  • latest trends in funding and changes to national policies for financial support of pupils and students

The analysis covers Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. Germany and the Netherlands did not provide data for 2010-2012. For the UK, data is available for Scotland and Wales but not for England and Northern Ireland.


The study is produced for the Commission by the Eurydice network, which consists of 40 national units based in 36 countries (27 Member States, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland as members of the Free Trade Area (EFTA), Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) ). Eurydice is co-ordinated by the EU Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.

For more information

The study is available in English on the Eurydice website.

European Commission: Education and training

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58)

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)


Figure 1: Changes in education budgets for all education levels4, 2010-2012

in 2011 compared with 2010 in 2012 compared with 2011

Increase or decrease
Increased by more than 5%
Decreased by more than 5%

below 1%

Increased between 1 and 5%
Decreased by 1 and 5%
Not available

Source: Eurydice

Figure 2: Evolution of teachers' and school heads' statutory salaries in absolute terms in the public sector, 2010-2012

in 2011 compared with 2010 in 2012 compared with 2011

increase due to reform of salaries
increase due to specific
only adjustment to the

adjustment for teachers cost of living

salaries frozen
data not available

Source: Eurydice

Figure 3: Trends in total public expenditure in education from 2000-2010

NB: X axis = Reference years; 2000 to 2010

Y axis = Relative percentage increase, Year 2000=100

":" = no data

Source: Eurostat, national accounts statistics (data extracted November 2012).

1 :

Information for Hungary relates to 2011 compared with 2010.

2 :

The decrease in education budgets in Italy was between 1 and 5% in 2011 compared with 2010 and more than 5% in 2012 compared with 2011.

3 :

Information for Poland relates to 2011 compared with 2010.

4 :

. The data in Figure 1 are in 'constant prices', which take account of differences in inflation rates.

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