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Brussels, 27 September 2011

The European Commission boosts the number of Erasmus Mundus scholarships for South Mediterranean students

The Communication on “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”1 - the culmination of a comprehensive review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, (ENP) launched in 2010, outlines a new approach towards EU’s neighbours to the East and South, based on mutual accountability and a shared commitment to respecting universal values, international human rights standards, democracy and the rule of law.

A strengthened engagement in the area of education is a crucial element of the new approach towards Neighbouring countries. In the context of the recent developments in the South Mediterranean region, particular attention needs to be given to supporting actions in favour of young people, students, and university staff who play an important role in the current democratisation process.

Furthermore, the EU's neighbours continue to be on a transition towards establishing fully-fledged market economies. In this context higher education institutions are under strong pressure to provide the skills required by these new economic conditions, and to open up to society at large, in particular the world of work.

Between 2007 and 2011, through the Erasmus Mundus programme, the EU has funded study opportunities in Europe for 2000 students and academic staff from the South Mediterranean region and supported the creation of partnerships between higher education institutions from the EU and those from South Mediterranean countries. Because student and staff exchanges and partnerships are essential for mutual understanding, exchange of ideas and knowledge, democratisation processes, professional development and employability, the European Commission has decided to significantly increase the funding allocated to Erasmus Mundus, allowing for the creation of more partnerships and increasing the number of scholarships for students and staff coming from North Africa and the Middle East.

For the new academic year, 750 additional scholarships will be awarded to students from the region (in addition to the 1200 already planned). For the two forthcoming academic years, the Commission is considering additional measures to strengthen its support to student and academic exchanges with its Southern neighbours,, so as to provide new opportunities to undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral students as well as staff.

The EU is also supporting the higher education systems of the South Mediterranean countries through the Tempus programme. For the past ten years, the programme has funded the modernisation and opening of universities through joint projects between European universities and their counterparts from the South Mediterranean region. Tempus has funded more than 300 projects in the region to modernise curricula, improve university governance and create better links between higher education and society. In the years to come, the Commission will continue to actively support national policy reforms and for the next selection rounds (2012 and 2013) it is expected to significantly increase the number of selected projects.

Amount: 30 M€ for the South Mediterranean countries

Budget Source: European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)

Duration of projects: Implementation will spread over the years 2011 to 2013

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