For the first time, major African and European universities, higher education experts and Erasmus Mundus Alumni students gathered in Brussels on 4 and 5 December to examine ways to strengthen links between higher education institutions in Africa and Europe and increase the mobility of students, researchers and teachers between the two continents.
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture 7 Youth, Mr JŠn Figel', said: "By promoting the mobility and academic excellence of young people in higher education with the Erasmus Mundus programme, we help break down barriers of misunderstanding that can exist between individuals, societies and cultures, and thereby contribute to creating a stable and peaceful world".
During the conference, the debate hinged on the experience gained from implementing mobility programmes, in particular Erasmus Mundus. From this, participants sought to find ways of making the best possible use of the new phase of the Erasmus Mundus programme (2009 - 2013), which will provide increased possibilities for cooperation between higher education institutions in Europe and Africa.
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, said, "Education is the single most important key to unlocking Africa's potential. Strengthening ties between African and European students and their higher education institutions is crucial as we face increasing global challenges, such as climate change or the financial crisis, that we will have to tackle together through sharing ideas and knowledge."
Spreading the word
On the occasion of the Conference, an African Chapter of the Erasmus Mundus Alumni Association was launched. African alumni play a major role in disseminating information about the Erasmus Mundus programme and, more generally, about the benefits of mobility for professional and personal development. The Alumni Association also promotes mutual understanding between cultures and provides a growing network of concerned professionals interested to build closer collaboration between our two continents.
One of the key outcomes expected from this Conference is better targeted information to students and to universities in Africa which in turn should lead to increased African participation in Erasmus Mundus. The analysis of 'best practice' both for mobility and for cooperation between institutions will provide the basis for stronger links between African and European higher education institutions in the interest of capacity building, improving the level of excellence of African higher education and promoting the attractiveness of European higher education.
African participation in Erasmus Mundus
Since its launch in 2004, 866 African students have benefited from the Erasmus Mundus programme, with a strong increase in the past two years. This places Africa third behind Asia (3,431) and the Americas (1,230). However, only 8% of African applicants are selected for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship (granted only to very high quality students). This is the lowest success rate of any world region. The average success rate among all applicants is around 15%. Participation rates differ strikingly among African countries, with Ethiopia providing by far the most applicants. The participation of African scholars has also risen each year, from 4 in 2004 to 51 in 2008.
(Europa Rapid press release)