There is an urgent need to address the social dimension of higher education more forcefully and coherently, particularly in view of the economic downturn across Europe. This is the conclusion of the new Eurydice report, which looks at national policies on access to higher education, funding and student support. The report, covering EU Member States, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey, suggests that countries are struggling to adapt their higher education systems to meet the challenges brought about by rapid societal change in recent years. In particular, they need to open up... opportunities for more people to benefit from higher education, matching this objective with coherent measures, funding and monitoring to evaluate their impact. European leaders have agreed a headline target that 40% of 30-34 year olds should have a higher education qualification by 2020 - an increase from just over 33% today. The study focuses on three key topics: policies to widen participation in higher education; funding trends; and the impact of student fee and support systems. It reveals that approaches to meet shared European objectives vary greatly between countries and have different impacts on the performance of higher education. For example, there seems to be an East-West divide regarding routes to higher education for non-traditional candidates such as adult learners and people entering university on the basis of skills gained in the workplace rather than school qualifications. The report highlights changes in higher education spending in response to the crisis. Over the past academic year (2010/11 compared to 2009/10) budgets were most increased in Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Austria, France, Finland and Malta, while the deepest cuts were made in Greece, Ireland, Iceland, (8-10% decrease), as well as in Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (up to 3% decrease).