Brussels, 28 Jan 2004
EU Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding, claimed that Europe is lagging behind the US in matters of university funding, as she launched the new EU programme ERASMUS MUNDUS at the Sorbonne University in France on January.
'Education is a priority in a strategy for long-term growth in Europe,' said Ms Reding. 'Higher education plays a crucial role by encouraging innovation, job creation and competitiveness in an increasingly global context. In any given European country, if a student remains one more year in further education, this could be translated into a productivity gain of 6.2 per cent. Hence the requirement to invest in human capital.'
Presently, insisted the Commissioner, investment in higher education remains inadequate. The United States spends 2.3 per cent of its GDP on higher education, compared to 1.1 per cent in the EU. This equals a spending of between two to five times more for each university student.
As a result, although there are more European than American students graduating in mathematics, science and technology, the total number of graduates with research posts in Europe is inferior by almost a third to the numbers in the US. Additionally, the majority of European, Asian and Latin American students participating in international exchanges chose to go to the US rather than Europe: in 2000/2001, 550,000 international students went to the US, and only 400,000 to Europe.
In the interest of Europe's future competitiveness, it is therefore vitally important that European universities improve their attractiveness to both students and teachers from Europe and outside, asserted Ms Reding.
ERASMUS MUNDUS is one of the instruments put in place by the EU to tackle these challenges. Adopted in December 2003, it encourages the creation of inter-university master degrees. With a budget of 230 million euro over a period of five years (2004 to 2008), 'It is a first step towards a single European diploma and a European Research Area,' declared Ms Reding.
For more information on the ERASMUS MUNDUS programme, please visit http://europa.eu.int/comm/education/prog rammes/mundus/index_en.html