The push towards greater autonomy is one of the three main trends in every modern educational policy, alongside quality assurance and quality evaluation techniques and the need to devote attention to special – and often disadvantaged – target groups. It is, however, difficult to derive a unified concept of `autonomy' from the comparative indicators which are published on a regular basis and it has emerged that there are significant differences depending on the specific area and the administrative organisation of education in the country in question. During the discussions of the annual Congress of the European Association for Education Law and Policy (ELA) in Salzburg (1998) it was apparent that autonomy has to be considered in its various applications.
Autonomy for school boards is realised through management, administrative mechanisms, management of staff and pedagogical options. Autonomy of administration requires competence, the willingness to establish an autonomous administration and awareness of each party's responsibility in the educational process.
The contents of this Yearbook are an answer to the question of how legislatures are responding to the trend towards greater responsibility, decentralisation and autonomy. It is an overview of the efforts made by the Member States of the European Union to apply the principle of subsidiarity.