European higher education may win a "substantial" funding boost, following an agreement to more than double the budget for the giant Socrates programme.
The seven-year second phase of Socrates, covering university, college, school and adult education, should receive E1.85 billion (Pounds 1.18 billion), the European Council's conciliation committee has agreed.
The sum - a E300 million compromise between the E1.55 billion originally offered by the Council of Ministers and the E2.15 billion requested by the European Commission - represents a significant upward leap from the E920 million budget for Socrates 1, even though it is spread over a longer period and more member states.
The committee, comprising 15 members of the European Parliament and 15 representatives of the council, agreed that Erasmus - the programme that allocates grants for student and academic staff mobility and for the development of the European dimension in higher education - will account for 51 per cent of the budget.
This is a slightly lower proportion than Erasmus received under Socrates 1, because new programmes to cover lifelong learning, adult education and open and distance learning, have been introduced. But there will still be a real increase in the amount of money available for Erasmus projects.
The European Council and Parliament have six weeks to confirm the committee's agreement before it can be given the final go-ahead.
John Reilly, director of the UK Socrates/Erasmus Council, welcomed the agreement, saying new programmes would broaden the scope for institutions to gain European backing for their activities.