Strengthening cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries in higher education
The European Union (EU)strategy on cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries in the field of education identifies two key objectives: to cultivate high-quality human resources in partner countries and within the Union through reciprocal human resource development and to promote the EU as a worldwide centre of excellence for study, training and scientific and technological research.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 18 July 2001 on strengthening cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries in the field of higher education [COM(2001) 385 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In view of the development of higher education, and given the ever-increasing demand for international education and student mobility, the Commission calls for further efforts at European level to strengthen cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries.
According to this new approach, the European Union (EU) should:
- ensure that the international dimension is taken into account more systematically in teaching activities;
- increase its visibility in this field in order to attract students from Non-EU Member Countries.
This Commission Communication proposes an overall strategy and identifies specific rules for intervention.
Proposed methods of intervention
The Commission hopes to make the most of the experience gained from programmes set up in the EU, in particular the Erasmus programme. It also insists that the agreements concluded on educational matters with non-EU member countries are differentiated according to country and even region.
The Communication envisages cooperation based on multilateral networks and partnerships involving countries which have a system of higher education comparable to that of European educational institutions, so that the universities concerned can agree on:
- exchange arrangements for students and teachers. The development of distance learning and the growth in the use of information technology are also required to play a part in strengthening international partnerships;
- the academic content of courses to be taught to exchange students;
- arrangements for recognition of work done by the home and host universities, based on the model of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), which is the European standard in higher education;
- arrangements for care of the student while he or she is abroad. The Commission proposes increasing the number of long-term grants for students from Non-EU Member Countries.
The following are to be avoided:
- exchanges which are not linked to partnerships between academic institutions which have limited advantages for the institutions, and which also limit the sharing of the experience gained;
- exchanges which do not involve a return to the country of origin, and which are therefore likely to encourage a 'brain drain'.
In order for cooperation with third countries to be really effective, the exchange of students only is not enough. In particular, they must be accompanied by staff exchanges, along with the development of joint programmes and recognition arrangements for education undertaken abroad.
In cooperation with the Member States, the Commission proposes launching a joint operation to promote the EU as a centre of excellence in learning around the world. To this end, the Commission also suggests increasing capacity for European studies in other countries by extending the network of European Union Studies centres and Jean Monnet Chairs (specialist education positions in the study of European integration) around the world.
A further Commission proposal is to encourage European academic institutions to develop truly European educational "packages" by, for example, introducing joint courses which allow foreign and European students to spend more than one academic year in different Member States. This could lead in some cases to joint diplomas.
The Commission announces the short-term proposal of setting up a pilot programme of scholarships, under the ALFA programme, for teachers and post-graduate students from Latin American countries.
Over the years the Member States have developed a well-established tradition of bilateral cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries in the field of education. The EU has also set up a number of initiatives with Non-EU Member Countries, for example the cooperation programmes with the United States and Canada, or indeed the Tempus, ALFA and Erasmus Mundus programmes.