Essex University is to be the British link in a planned European Union-funded Latin American exchange programme.
Vice chancellor Ron Johnston has signed a letter of intent signalling Essex's participation in the Alfa programme (America Latina -- Formacion Academica), planned as an Erasmus-style exchange between Europe and Latin America. Alfa still has to receive formal European Commission approval, but several months of planning have already gone into the project.
Two other European universities -- the Free University of Berlin and the University of Utrecht, academic base of project coordinator Kees Koonings -- have also been invited to take part. Latin American participants include Mexico's Universidad Autonoma.
Essex sees the invitation as reinforcing its standing as one of the leading British centres for Latin American studies. Brian Hamnett, director of its Latin American Centre, said: "We strongly support the Alfa initiative and believe it to be a potential benefit not simply to the Latin American centre, but to the university as a whole.
"The idea of Alfa is to facilitate the training of Latin American postgraduates by bringing them to European Universities, and that they should then return to Latin America to apply what they have learned." There will also be opportunities for Essex students to go to Latin America.
The network will organise around 1,900 postgradeuate exchanges on one or two-year grants every year, plus a yearly exchange of around 350 undergraduates.