A PIONEERING Erasmus network of five European city universities is making an Atlantic crossing.
Universities in Bath, Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Sienna launched undergraduate ex-changes in European studies in 1988, going on to set up an innovative one-year Euromasters postgraduate course in 1995.
They are now collaborating with three universities in the United States under the European Commission's new cooperation programme, backed by more than $350,000 over three years from the Commission and the US Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education.
The Transatlantic Studies Program (TASP) builds on the Euromasters course, which investigates theories of nationalism, European identity and international relations.
The network ensures that a European perspective is inescapable: its initial core module is taught at Bath, but there is a different lecturer on every day of the week from each of the five countries involved. Students must go to a country other than their own for the second module, taught entirely in that country's language, during which they examine how it is coping with the strains and stresses of Europeanisation.
The students then choose where to research and write their dissertation. Bath specialises in research on a common foreign and security policy; Berlin looks at the problems of integrating eastern European countries into the European Union; Madrid investigates questions of regionalism, nationalism and supra-nationalism; Paris studies media and broadcasting; while Sienna focuses on how the Mediterranean countries relate to the rest of Europe.
Jolyon Howorth, Jean Monnet professor of European political union at Bath, says Euromasters students tend to break into three groups - those wanting to work in the European Commission and other European institutions, those seeking employment in European companies, and those hoping to go on to do PhDs.
In the post-cold war world, relations between the EU and US have become more complex but there have been few genuine attempts to bring together political scientists.
Next session will see a "half-way house", with a TASP track on the Euromasters degree. But in 1998/99, all the TASP students will have to take two modules in the US and two in Europe, which means they must have a second language.
British students have coped well with this challenge, and Professor Howorth dismisses fears over the Americans' language skills.
"They're confident that throughout the whole of the US there will be 20 students who've got another language," he jokes.
The TASP programme hopes to create a vast "virtual classroom" across the northern hemisphere, with satellite links allowing prestigious lectures to be beamed across all the sites in real time, while a sophisticated videoconferencing system will enable students to attend international seminars.