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Brussels, 19th November 2008

Consumers: Commissioner Kuneva launches new European Masters degree in Consumer Affairs

European Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva today officially launched the first ever European Masters in Consumer Affairs. The Masters will be an EU-backed degree programme, offered in 13 European cities across 9 Member States: Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and UK. The aim is to introduce professional training in consumer affairs, so that trained professionals can be brought on to the job market to drive forward consumer issues in business, in policy-making and within consumer organisations themselves. A European professional qualification in this domain does not yet exist and this new University Masters degree aims to fill that gap. The curricula will include consumer protection law, analysis of consumer behaviour and psychology, economics, marketing, consumer-oriented technology and/or sustainable consumption. Businesses, governments and consumer organisations have already indicated an interest in hiring such trained professionals. The European Commission has been active in helping to create these courses and is backing them financially.

Launching the programme at the University de Haute Alsace in Colmar (France), Commissioner Kuneva said: "Looking at current events, such as the financial turmoil and rising prices, we cannot overstate the importance of protecting and promoting consumers’ rights and interests. I am therefore particularly pleased that consumer empowerment is now firmly a part of university training in Europe".

Why a European Masters in Consumer Affairs?

Consumer rights and consumer welfare are increasingly important, especially in the current economic climate where informed choices are making a real difference to consumers every day. Consumers need easy access to clear information and professional advice if they are to shop confidently, both at home and cross-border. Furthermore, in spite of the substantial interest shown by employers in recruiting specialists to respond to this need, there has been no European postgraduate degree course in Europe dedicated specifically to consumer affairs. The new initiative, which brings together universities from across the EU, aims to respond to both consumers’ and employers’ needs, by creating a new breed of an advanced degree course which will combine insights from a range of traditional disciplines (from law to marketing to psychology) as well as deal with EU-wide consumer topics.

Which universities?

The Masters degree programmes will be held in 13 cities across 9 Member states. These universities are divided into 3 consortia, with a different subject focus for each (* indicates the coordinating universities):

Group 1: Subjects include marketing/management, consumer-oriented technology; sustainable consumption; food and nutrition; consumer studies; supply chain development

*Technical University of Munich (Germany)

Aarhus University (Denmark)

Wageningen University (Netherlands)

Warsaw University of Life Sciences (Poland).

Group 2: Subjects include consumer behaviour; legal issues; relationship of enterprises and consumers

*University of Haute Alsace in Mulhouse (France)

Institut Catholique des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (ICHEC) in Brussels (Belgium)

Academy of Economic Studies in Bucarest (Romania)

Karol Adamiecki University of Economics in Katowice (Poland).

Group 3: Subjects include economics, marketing, law and psychology

*University of Barcelona (Spain)

Université de Montpellier (France)

University of Bologna (Italy)

University of West Timisoara (Romania)

Brunel University (UK)

When will the courses start and how do students apply?

The new Masters courses will begin in autumn 2009 (i.e. the 2009/10 academic year). Students can apply to take part in these courses directly through the university in question, as with any other course.

What will be taught in these programmes?

Details of curricula vary from university to university, but some of the common study areas include: legal issues in consumer protection, analysis of consumer behaviour and psychology, economics, marketing, consumer oriented technology and innovation, and sustainable consumption. The degree will take up to two years to complete, and students will be required to spend a part of their time at a partner university in another EU country. Mutual recognition of this qualification throughout the EU will be arranged before the courses start.

Where can the graduates find jobs?

Earlier surveys indicate that interest has been shown by large companies, national governments and consumer associations in recruiting trained consumer experts. Further opportunities may exist in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout Europe.

How is the EU helping?

Each of the 13 universities will get EU funding of € 50,000 per year over three years to prepare and run the courses. The EU will also fund 260 student grants of up to € 3,000 each, to a total of € 780,000.

More details: European Commission’s website for consumer education:

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