Brussels, 8 May 2008
The European Commission has launched the fourth phase of the Tempus programme, which supports the modernisation of higher education in the 28 partner countries of Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. A conference held in Cairo, Egypt, on 7-8 May 2008 will concentrate on the issue of quality and the experience of the Tempus programme in this field since its beginnings in 1990. The conference will also serve as a platform for dialogue between academics, experts and students from the 27 EU Member States and 28 Tempus partner countries.
On the eve of the conference, Ján Figel', the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, said "Tempus will continue to promote the modernisation of higher education in the partner countries, enhance the quality and relevance of higher education, and build up the capacity of higher education institutions in the partner countries to assist them in opening up to society and the world."
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, added: “A modern and efficient higher education system is key for the successful development of a country. This is why education is always a high priority in our assistance programmes with third countries, particularly in the neighbourhood. And for me, ensuring women's access to higher education and professional training is instrumental."
With Tempus, the European Commission is creating an area of cooperation in the field of higher education between the European Union and its neighbours. Since 1990, Tempus has funded 6500 projects, involving 2000 universities from the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Between 2000 and 2006, 788 Joint European Projects and 1492 individual mobility grants were funded. In addition, during the same period, Tempus supported 270 structural and complementary measures.
The results of a study commissioned by the European Commission indicate that Tempus has had a considerable impact, particularly by setting in motion the long and difficult shift towards output-oriented rather than input-oriented education. The former revolves around the concept of what a person actually knows (the learning outcome), while the traditional, input-oriented, approach concentrated more on how long or where the person acquired that knowledge (the learning inputs).
Most universities in Tempus partner countries have made progress in introducing quality assurance schemes. These are essential for building trust into the system. Tempus has also helped to create a large number of professional staff highly committed to change and reform. The majority of the 2000 universities participating in Tempus projects have developed internal guidelines for quality assurance, including methods for self-assessment and peer reviews. In some countries, mainly in the Western Balkans, Tempus has helped to establish genuinely independent national quality assurance and accreditation agencies. However if quality is to be recognised as a strategic issue at university level, its place within the universities should be more visible, and appropriate levels of human and financial resources should be allocated to it. In many countries of the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood there is still an urgent need to develop effective materials and courses for staff development in quality assurance mechanisms.
Tempus study on quality enhancement in higher education: