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The European Commission is scheduled to open national Tempus (Trans-European mobility scheme for university studies) offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah today. Tempus is the European Union's external cooperation program that supports the modernization of higher education in countries surrounding the EU.
As in other partner countries participating in the Tempus program, these National Tempus Offices (NTO) are intended to function as focal points and facilitators on the ground, with the mission to contribute to the relevance, effectiveness and impact of the Tempus program.
European Commissioner in charge of Education, Training, Culture and Youth Jan Figel is also scheduled to sign a joint declaration on education, together with Education Minister Yuli Tamir today. It is a said to be a response to the mutual willingness to further strengthen cooperation and dialogue between the European Commission and Israel in the field of education and training. It aims to reinforce the sectoral policy-oriented dialogue covering a wide array of issues of common concern, such as the Bologna Process (higher education), the Copenhagen Process (vocational training), lifelong learning policies, school twinning, language learning, means of promoting the transferability and recognition of qualifications, and informal learning outcomes.
Tempus supports the modernization of higher education and creates an area of cooperation in countries surrounding the EU. Established in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the scheme now covers 27 countries in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Tempus finances two types of actions:
Joint projects are based on multilateral partnerships between higher education institutions in the EU and the partner countries. They can develop, modernize and disseminate new curricula, teaching methods or materials, boost a quality-assurance culture, and modernize the management and governance of higher education institutions.
Structural measures contribute to the development and reform of higher education institutions and systems in partner countries, to enhance their quality and relevance, and increase their convergence with EU developments.
Partnerships are made up of a consortia of organizations, including higher education institutions, businesses, ministries, NGOs and other organizations working in higher education, both from the EU and partner countries.
The latest phase of the program, Tempus IV, started in 2008 with a call for proposals lasting from January to April. The total budget for this call was about â‚¬51 million, with individual projects able to gaining funding of between â‚¬500,000 and â‚¬1.5m. New projects under this call start at the end of 2008.
Tempus is managed by the European Commission's education and culture, enlargement and aid departments. It is financed through three of the European Commission's external assistance instruments: the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (Western Balkans); the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East); and the Development and Cooperation Instrument (Central Asia).
The Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window is a complimentary program that funds higher education student and teaching staff mobility activities between European universities and universities from targeted third countries. The program supports European top-quality master's courses and enhances the visibility and attractiveness of European higher education in third countries. The program's specific objectives are:
Promote a quality offer in higher education with a distinct European added value, attractive both within the EU and beyond its borders;
Encourage and enable highly qualified graduates and scholars from all over the world to obtain qualifications and experience in the EU;
Develop more structured cooperation between EU and third-country institutions; encourage outgoing EU mobility as part of European study programs;
Improve the accessibility of higher education; enhance the profile and the visibility of European higher education throughout the world.
The Erasmus Mundus program comprises four concrete actions:
Erasmus Mundus masters courses: They constitute the central component around which the Erasmus Mundus program is built. The Erasmus Mundus masters courses are high-quality, integrated study programs at masters level offered by a consortium involving a minimum of three universities in at least three different European countries. Students have to study in at least two of the three universities and obtain a recognized double or joint degree upon graduation;
Erasmus Mundus scholarships: The scholarship scheme addresses graduate students and scholars from third countries who have been admitted to attend an Erasmus Mundus masters course;
Partnerships: Erasmus Mundus masters courses have the possibility of establishing partnerships with third-country higher education institutions. These partnerships reportedly allow for outgoing mobility of graduate EU students and scholars involved in the Erasmus Mundus masters courses to study or work at a third-country partner university;
Enhancing attractiveness: Erasmus Mundus supports projects aimed at enhancing the attractiveness of European higher education around the world. It supports activities that will improve the profile, the visibility and the accessibility of European higher education.
Ari Syrquin is the head of GSCB Law Firm's International Department.