€230m EU programme to open up universities

10 Jun 2004

Growing concern that Europe’s higher education institutions receive too few students, visiting scholars and researchers from other continents lies behind an ambitious new student exchange programme.

The €230m EU graduate mobility programme, known as Erasmus Mundus, will involve 10,000 students and scholars in the EU and the rest of the world.

The programme will cover the period up to 2008. By that time, there is planned to be 250 new European Masters courses carrying an ‘EU Seal’ with financial support provided through scholarships and fellowships for a total of 4,200 students and 1,000 scholars from outside the EU.

A further 4,000 European postgraduate students and 800 visiting scholars will receive financial support for study in third countries over the same period. Calls for proposals for inclusion in the scheme for 2005/06 have been issued and higher education institutions have until 31 October 2004 to apply.

Launching the intiative, the EU commissioner for education and culture, Viviane Reding, said: “Erasmus Mundus is the instrument that Europe needs, both internally and in relation to the outside world, to be a winner in the globalisation of education. By opening our higher education institutions to the world, we also open them to Europe.”

Dr Don Thornhill, HEA chairman, added: “The HEA is delighted to support this important EU initiative. Ireland and the EU need to attract more top-level graduates and researchers. This programme will contribute to building up an internationally competitive research base in our countries.”

Four key actions have been identified as essential to building this necessary closer co-operation at the European level. The first and the cornerstone of the whole programme is the creation of 250 Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses in the period 2004-2008.

To be eligible to participate, a consortium of at least three higher education institutions in at least three different European countries must be created. To qualify for the EU seal, these courses must entail recognised periods of study in at least two of three higher education institutions. Places will be reserved for students from third countries.

Second, Erasmus Mundus Scholarships, amounting to €1,600 per month plus financial assistance to cover fees will be available to graduates from third countries to come to Europe. It is estimated that about 4,200 scholarships will be awarded over the life of the programme. In addition, the EU hopes to attract 1,000 visiting scholars to Europe for short-term teaching and research assignments associated with the EU Masters Courses. Each scholar will receive on average grant aid of €13,000.

Third, Erasmus Mundus Partnerships will be established between European universities and top class universities in third countries. Under this plan, some 4,000 European postgraduate students and 800 visiting scholars between now and 2008 will receive financial support for study in third countries. The average grant for students will be €700 per month, with scholars receiving an average grant of €13,000 for their three-month assignment.

Finally, an Enhancing Attractiveness scheme will see financial support being provided for the international promotion of European higher education and for the establishment of services facilitating access of third country students to European universities.

By Brian Skelly