Nicosia/ Brussels, 20 June 2013
Higher education: a bridge between the two shores of the Mediterranean
More students from Southern Mediterranean countries will benefit from the EU's new programme for education training and youth: this was the message from European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou at a university 'summit' in Nicosia today. The Commissioner said the new programme, due for launch in January 2014, would build on the success of the existing Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes. Since 2007, more than €140 million has been allocated for projects involving Southern Mediterranean universities to develop new curricula, retrain teachers, support new teaching methods and invest in equipment. In addition, €150 million has been provided in grants for more than 4 500 students from the region to spend part of their studies in the EU. More than 750 academic staff have also taken part in exchanges organised with European universities.
More than 200 universities in North Africa, the Middle East and the EU are involved in the exchanges. Universities in France, Italy, Spain Germany, Egypt and Jordan are the most active in the scheme. Nearly 800 students and staff from the Southern Mediterranean have also benefitted from funding for joint master and doctoral programmes since 2004.
“Erasmus Mundus has been a great success since its launch in 2004 and I am happy to say that we will be able to support even more exchanges under our new programme. Investing in youth is the best investment of all, in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean. We want to support young people who are the key to social and political change, as well as the future prosperity of the region," the Commissioner said.
The 'information day' event at Nicosia University was an opportunity for the Commission to discuss its future plans with representatives of the academic community from the Southern Mediterranean region. "We wish to demonstrate our commitment to lasting cooperation with our neighbours in the higher education field," added Commissioner Vassiliou. The event brought together more than 150 government officials, higher education staff and stakeholders from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon and EU Member States.
The Erasmus Mundus programme aims to enhance quality in higher education through scholarships and academic cooperation between Europe and the rest of the world. The programme offers financial support for institutions and scholarships for individuals. Funding is available for:
The Tempus programme promotes institutional cooperation for reform and modernisation of higher education systems in the Neighbouring Countries, including those in the Southern Mediterranean. Projects typically have a budget of up to €1.5 million and focus on areas such as the development of new curricula, modernisation of teaching and learning, improved partnerships with businesses and better governance in higher education. Since 2003 around €220 million has been allocated through Tempus to support the modernisation of higher education in Southern Mediterranean countries. Since 2007, 110 projects, involving nearly 200 higher education institutions, have received funding through Tempus.
Funding for both Erasmus Mundus and Tempus was greatly increased in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In 2011, an additional €20 million for Tempus supported the creation of four new university partnerships and nearly 560 extra scholarships on top of the 525 initially planned for Southern Mediterranean candidates. In 2012, the Erasmus Mundus budget was doubled which meant that more than €35 million was available to fund 10 partnerships. Nearly 1 500 non-EU students and 400 EU nationals will receive grants to study or learn abroad thanks to this funding.
The new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, will continue to promote cooperation between the EU and Southern Mediterranean countries. As well as continued support for joint degrees students from Southern Mediterranean countries will also benefit from scholarships to participate in excellent joint Master programmes. Doctoral fellowships will be financed by the future Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions programme.
Erasmus will also be extended to non-EU universities for the first time.
For more information
A study outlining the main achievements of the Tempus programme in the Southern Mediterranean
European Commission: Education and Training website
Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU