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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Erasmus+ will boost EU's Eastern Partnership
Education Ministerial Session of the Informal Eastern Partnership Dialogue /Yerevan, Armenia
13 September 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very grateful for this opportunity to open the first ministerial meeting on education under the Informal Eastern Partnership Dialogue. I would like to thank Armenia's Minister of Education and Science and his colleagues for organising today's event. It is a great pleasure to be here, and I am sure we can learn a great deal from each other.
Education, and in particular higher education, has a growing international dimension. The type of dialogue we are having today has become a necessity, since we all share common challenges in a rapidly changing world.
The countries of the Eastern Partnership are at the centre of our efforts to support democratic and growth-oriented reforms. Your countries are also the European Union's privileged partners for international academic cooperation.
The EU has already shown its commitment to our partnership with you by greatly increasing the funding of our main cooperation programmes, Tempus and Erasmus Mundus, for the period 2011-2013. In recent years, hundreds of institutions and thousands of students and staff in the region have benefited from these programmes. They have been instrumental in the reform and modernisation of higher education systems and institutions in your region.
We have also initiated our policy dialogue with your ministries under Platform 4 of the Eastern Partnership, a platform dedicated to "contacts between people".
But the EU is determined to do more – and we will. Next year, we launch our new programme for education, training and youth, Erasmus+.
Erasmus+ will replace the Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes, and deliver something bigger and better. We want to build on the good work so far, increase the mobility of students and staff between our regions, and give greater support to the modernisation of higher education institutions and systems.
Erasmus+ will create more opportunities for our institutions to work together and develop closer contacts between people. We will, for example, for the first time open the intra-EU Erasmus programme and offer exactly the same cooperation mechanisms to universities in your region.
Our meeting today is a unique opportunity to discuss our joint achievements and the way forward. Education is vital for the prosperity and stability of our societies, because without well-performing education systems, there can be neither growth nor development. In all parts of Europe, the economic crisis has underscored the need for people to develop a broader range of skills, and it is up to our schools and universities to meet this challenge.
Labour-market needs in your region have evolved a lot over the past 20 years. Tempus has helped higher education to adapt curricula to the major transitions in your societies and economies. Since 2008, more than half of all Tempus projects in the region have focused on curriculum reform. Through Tempus, many new fields of study have been introduced or developed.
We want to bring the worlds of education and work closer together, to ensure that our graduates can acquire skills that are valued in the labour market. These goals are all part of the EU modernisation strategy which complements the Bologna Process.
We have invested heavily in learning mobility, and will invest even more in the years ahead. The evidence indicates that mobility brings substantial benefits for students and young people, as well as for higher education institutions and systems.
Mobility helps people to develop some of the skills that are crucial to meeting the challenges of the global knowledge-based economy. Here, we are talking not only about better communication, cultural and language skills but also about a sense of initiative, confidence, entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to adapt.
Within the European Union itself, learning mobility strengthens our identity as Europeans and has a positive impact, not only on individuals but also on our institutions and the quality of the education they offer.
Students, if they can, want to travel in pursuit of learning; and institutions and governments agree that they should be encouraged to do so. Within the Bologna Process, Ministers have agreed that by 2020, at least 20% of graduates in the European Higher Education Area should have enjoyed a study or training period abroad.
I firmly believe that academic cooperation and mobility not only improve quality in higher education. They also open avenues for mutual understanding that run deep through our cultures, and are among the best forms of people-to-people contacts. Therefore, cooperation and mobility must remain at the heart of the neighbourhood policy that we are celebrating today.
[Presentation of the new Erasmus+ programme and Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions]
Allow me now to introduce the final part of our discussion by presenting very briefly our new programmes: Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions.
Erasmus+, the new programme for education and training, youth and sport, will merge seven existing programmes into one.
It will bring about simplification, making the programme's actions more visible and easier to understand. This will also bring more efficiency and more coherence between the different actions within the EU and in our increasingly important work with the other regions of the world.
Erasmus+ will build on the success of Tempus and Erasmus Mundus, and continue the EU's support to Eastern Partnership countries provided before 2013. We want in particular to boost mobility between our regions, and support partnerships between higher education institutions which will help to strengthen their capacity.
Erasmus+ will have a strong international component, aiming to attract the brightest global talent to Europe. It will provide funding for more outgoing mobility, international partnerships and joint research projects, as well as for capacity building and staff development in partner countries throughout the world.
Let me briefly summarise the major innovations of the new programme.
First and foremost, we will support short-term credit mobility. In other words, we are opening the internal Erasmus programme to students and universities all over the world. I believe this signals an exciting new chapter in the story of Erasmus. And it is good news for the thousands of young people in your region and beyond who will find it much easier to study for a term or a year in another country.
More higher education institutions will be able to take part in the programme, since participation will not be restricted to a small number of organisations participating in a call for tender. Institutions will enjoy more flexibility when it comes to finding partners, provided they have signed an inter-institutional agreement.
These changes will have a positive impact on institutions and your universities in particular. They will boost the number of agreements between EU and Eastern Partnership institutions, and help them to internationalise.
Second, Erasmus+ will mean that neighbouring countries continue to benefit from degree mobility through the award of high-level scholarships to participate in joint Master programmes. In other words, we continue Erasmus Mundus Action 1, supporting Joint Masters and related scholarships under the mobility strand.
We will ensure complementarity with the Marie Curie Actions, which will continue in Horizon 2020 under the name Marie Skłodowska Curie. These actions will support research activities and especially joint doctorates. We will retain the strong international dimension, and the programme will continue to serve as a tool for European universities, helping them to cement their partnerships with their peers around the world.
Under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, we will fund joint, double and multiple doctorates. In addition, European Industrial Doctorates will encourage academic collaboration with the private sector to combine learning in innovation and entrepreneurial spirit with high-level academic research.
The third major change is that Erasmus+ will support capacity-building through multilateral partnerships between higher education institutions from the EU and Neighbouring countries.
Here we are building on the success of Tempus. We will strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries by integrating a strong mobility component in those partnerships. We want to ensure that mobility has an impact not only on the individuals involved but also on the capacities of Eastern Partnership institutions.
I would like to assure you that the National Tempus Officers, who are highly valued and have been instrumental in the success of Tempus in your countries, will become national contact persons and continue their current role.
As you can see, Erasmus+ will offer many new and promising features for your countries. But its success will depend on you and your higher education institutions: together you need to take a leading role. Therefore, I urge you, Ministers, to ensure that your ministries and universities seize these new opportunities.
On 24th and 25th October in Kaunas, Lithuania, we are organising an information day to help your higher education institutions to better understand the workings of the new programme. Please encourage your institutions to take part.
To conclude: the EU's negotiations on the budget for the international component of Erasmus+ have not yet finished. But I am confident that my proposals to further invest in education and research and boost support to our neighbouring countries will prevail. My message has been clear from the very beginning: investment in education is an investment in our future prosperity.