The Czech state does not distribute money to public universities in a way that would improve their quality. In international comparisons, they have been lagging for a long time

Press Release on audit No 20/06 – 17 May 2021

The SAO examined the funding system of public universities. In 2019, the Czech state spent more than CZK 45 billion on public universities. The system of funding neither encourages schools to improve the quality of the education provided, nor to focus on their long-term development. In international comparisons, the position of Czech public universities is deteriorating. Another issue is the fact that public universities are failing to obtain funds from international grants and to engage more closely with the private sector. Expenditure per student in the Czech Republic is low according to international comparisons, yet universities have not used up all the funds that they have at their disposal each year and instead increased the balances of their reserve funds.

The public universities funding system set up by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) does not help to improve the quality of education at these schools. However, the MoEYS has identified improving the quality of universities as one of its long-term priorities. In recent years, the Ministry has allocated more and more money to public universities in the form of contributions, which are based on the number of students, at the expense of funds distributed based on achieved results. Thus, the MoEYS is doing the opposite of what it had originally planned.

While expenditure per student is low, on an international scale, universities have not used up all the funds available to them each year in the years audited and instead transferred them to their reserve funds. Between 2014 and 2019, the balances of these reserve funds increased by 45%. In 2019, the total balance of the funds was CZK 19 billion. This represents around 42% of the amount of money paid by the MoEYS to public universities in the same year.

The audit also pointed out that the plans of public universities for their long-term development are often vague. This is also one of the reasons why the schools are unable to draw on the money allocated to them by the MoEYS for long-term investments.

Czech public universities have failed for many years to improve their position in international comparisons. For example, in the oldest ARWU ranking, only seven out of 26 Czech public universities were ranked in 2020 and only one reached a place in the first half of the one thousand schools evaluated.

The Czech Republic is also unsuccessful in getting better placement in the international comparison of the higher education system. It has worsened in all indicators since 2013 and ranked 29th out of 50 countries listed in 2020. In terms of results, it reached roughly only one third of the value of the most successful country.

Czech public universities have neither been successful in obtaining money from EU research grants, nor have been able to engage more closely with the private sector. In addition, the data according to which the MoEYS evaluates the quality of research in public universities show that the quality and relevance of such research is deteriorating. Moreover, the funding system emphasizes quantity and not the quality of research.

The audit also pointed to the fact that, although the Czech Republic has managed to increase the proportion of people with higher education qualifications, graduates in Masters’ degrees are significantly prevalent compared to other countries. There are up to three times more Masters’ graduates than Bachelor graduates. This ratio is more balanced in EU countries. In the Czech Republic, there are also fewer career-oriented bachelor degree programmes compared to EU countries, which are more oriented towards professional experience and training for future occupations. There is also an increasing number of university graduates who work in places where there is no need for such a level of education.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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