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Brussels, 12 July 2007

Erasmus Mundus II: a new boost for the EU's reference programme for cooperation with third countries in the field of higher education: FAQ

Today the European Commission has adopted its proposal to renew the Erasmus Mundus programme for the period 2009-2013 (see IP/07/). The current programme runs from 2004-08. This set of frequently-asked questions explains the main achievements of, and challenges for, this EU flagship programme in the field of higher education cooperation with third countries.

1 - Why did the Commission launch the programme in 2004?

With the Erasmus Mundus programme, the Commission wanted to give European higher education institutions a tool to live up to the challenges of globalization and contribute to competitiveness of EU as the main objective of the Lisbon strategy. The programme encourages universities to introduce an international dimension into their curricula by pooling the resources of various institutions across Europe and attracting top students and academics to Europe. Such initiatives will help to increase the international standing of Europe as a study destination. At the same time the programme helps to promote mutual understanding between societies and to counter the risk of widening the inter-cultural divide between European and other cultures.

2 - What are the main objectives and instruments of the programme?

Erasmus Mundus aims to enhance the quality of European higher education, to raise its attractiveness worldwide and to promote intercultural understanding through co-operation with third countries. The programme seeks to achieve these objectives by supporting high-quality European masters courses, providing high-calibre students and visiting academics from around the world with scholarships to engage in postgraduate study in Europe, as well as encouraging the outgoing mobility of European students and academics towards third countries. Specific projects aiming to raise the profile and appeal of European higher education are also supported. The funds available to achieve these aims are 230 million euros for the period 2004-2008.

3 - Who can participate in the programme and what are the outcomes up to now?

So far 323 universities from Europe and beyond are involved in a total of 80 Erasmus Mundus masters programmes. Many of these universities are highly ranked in the various university rankings. 4 129 third-country students from over 100 non-EU countries — mainly India, China, Brazil and Russia — have received an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study in Europe, and about 1 000 European students have received a grant for a study experience beyond the boundaries of Europe. Furthermore, more than 500 third-country academics — mainly from USA and China — have received an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to lecture or conduct research in Europe. The programme has also supported 23 projects which aim at increasing the attractiveness of European higher education.

4 - In which fields do Erasmus Mundus masters programmes operate?

Erasmus Mundus masters courses cover practically all academic disciplines, although there is a clear preponderance of courses in the academic fields of engineering and natural science. For the list of all selected Erasmus Mundus masters courses, please consult :

5 - What are the Erasmus Mundus "Windows"?

"Windows" are additional funds made available through the Community's external relations budget which have been injected into the Erasmus Mundus programme to encourage students of specific non-EU nationalities to study in Europe. They have allowed the funding of about 1 500 additional scholarships for students coming from specific third countries. Windows have been open for countries such as India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Western Balkan countries and the ACP countries.

The Commission has recently launched the "Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window" which is implemented complementary to, and in synergy with, the Erasmus Mundus programme. This new initiative funds student mobility (from undergraduate to post-doctorate level) and academic staff mobility between European higher education institutions and institutions from targeted third countries with a view to enhancing the cooperation capacities of institutions in the partner countries and the transfer of know-how. This action has been fully integrated into the proposal for the new Erasmus Mundus programme.

6 - What are the main findings of the external interim evaluation of the programme?

The interim evaluation, which was carried out between September 2006 and May 2007, has shown that the current programme is considered a major success by all the stakeholders involved. The evaluators recommended that the programme be continued, while paying particular attention to the following issues:

  • EU students should be more strongly supported through the programme;
  • The programme should support joint programmes also at doctoral level;
  • Third-country institutions should be more strongly involved in joint programmes;
  • Strong quality assurance mechanisms should be in place for joint programmes;
  • Funding levels should be increased for joint programmes.

The Commission's evaluation report and the external evaluation report can be found at:

7 - Why is the European Commission proposing to renew the programme?

The proposal to renew the programme for the period 2009-13 is based on an external interim evaluation of the current programme, an ex-ante impact assessment of the proposed programme, and a broad consultation of the main programme stakeholders, including universities, teaching staff and students. These surveys and studies have shown that the current programme is considered a major success and should be continued.

8 - Is the new programme a simple extension of the current one?

The new programme is not a simple extension of the current programme. While the new programme builds on the success of the current programme and consolidates current programme activities, its scope has been widened to new and more collaborative cooperation mechanisms between European and third-country universities which respect the needs and priorities of partner countries outside Europe. This will give the programme an additional dimension and reinforces the coherence and the visibility of EU action abroad. Erasmus Mundus should thus establish itself as the EU reference programme and trademark for cooperation with third countries in the field of higher education.

9 - What are the main programme activities and actions?

The programme addresses universities as well as university students and staff around the world. It will:

  • support joint programmes of outstanding academic quality at master and doctoral level, including a scholarship scheme for high-calibre EU and third-country students and academics;
  • promote partnerships between European and third-country universities in specific world regions as a basis for structured co-operation, transfer of know-how, exchange and mobility at all levels of higher education; and
  • support measures which will help to enhance the world-wide appeal of Europe as an educational destination.

10 - What are the main novelties of the programme?

The main novelties of the programme proposal are:

  • More opportunities and variety in the institutional cooperation modalities between European and third-country universities (highly integrated joint programmes or wider partnerships) and in the individual mobility scheme (full-study scholarships or short-term mobility grants);
  • Increased role of third-country universities in the programme (voluntary participation in joint programmes and obligatory participation in partnerships);
  • Extension of Erasmus Mundus to doctoral studies (joint programmes and partnerships) and, partially, to the undergraduate level (for partnerships only);
  • Stronger financial support for European students through the offer of more attractive scholarships.

11 – Will the Erasmus Mundus masters programmes which have been selected under the current programme continue to receive funding under the new programme?

All Erasmus Mundus masters programmes have been selected for a period of five years. These five years will be carried over into the new programming period if they have not expired under the current programme, i.e. masters programmes will continue to receive funding under the new programme. However, in order to render Erasmus Mundus programmes more sustainable and less dependent from Community support, the number of scholarships assigned to each programme will decrease over the years of the new programming period. This push for more independence will go hand in hand with a better promotion of the programmes.

12 - How is the programme linked to wider political processes (e.g. the Bologna Process & Lisbon Strategy)?

The Erasmus Mundus programme is seen as a useful means to respond to the challenges European higher education faces today, in particular the need to stimulate the process of the convergence of degree structures and to enhance the attractiveness of European higher education world-wide. These are themes central to the Bologna Process and to national reform in higher education in Member States. Furthermore, Erasmus Mundus can contribute to the European Union's Lisbon Strategy to promote a leading knowledge-based economy and a reference for high quality and excellence in education. Community action in this field also takes due account of the broader context of EU external policy and its cooperation with third countries.

13 - How is the programme linked to other European Community programmes?

Inspired by the highly successful Erasmus programme, Erasmus Mundus also offers a framework for valuable exchange and dialogue between cultures. However, Erasmus Mundus is a global scheme, providing scholarships beyond the boundaries of Europe. Erasmus Mundus complements the European Union's existing regional programmes in higher education with third countries, such as Tempus, ALFA and Asia-Link, which continue to foster international co-operation in higher education between the European Union and its specific partners.

14 - What will be the budget of the programme?

The Commission proposes a total amount of just over 950 million euros for a period of five years. 50% of these funds come from the budget on internal policies and 50% is funded out of the EU’s external policy instruments.

15 - How do Erasmus Mundus scholarships compare with other international scholarship programmes?

In order for the programme to successfully attract talented students and academics to Europe, it has to offer competitive scholarships which are comparable to similar scholarship schemes, such as the Fulbright scheme. The scholarships offered by the programme (e.g. 24,000 euros per year for a third-country masters student) are thus in line with its competitor schemes.

16 - When will the programme start up?

After its adoption by the Collège, the co-decision process will start with the legislative institutions (Council and European Parliament). The new programme should be adopted in the course of 2008 and enter into force in January 2009 when the current programme expires. This timing will avoid any disruption of programme activities during the transition period from the current to the future programme. The first call for proposals under the new programme is likely to be launched in early 2009, but preliminary information may already be available before.

For more information:

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