Moves to revive Mediterranean campus links

December 5, 1997

Barcelona. Medcampus, the European Union programme for linking universities around the Mediterranean, is set to start up again after a break of two years.

The move was announced at the European Association for International Education's annual congress, which brought 1,800 participants to Barcelona late last month.

Medcampus aims to encourage the transfer of training and know-how between universities of Western Europe, the Maghreb and the Middle East. The programme was halted in 1995 after a poor response from governments. Universities showed interest in the project, however, and a backlog of applications to join has built up.

EU administrator Jacques Giraudon told delegates that he expected the programme would be enlarged in 1998. Management of the programme had been improved to include a Medcampus technical office in Brussels.

The EU's programme is also to become more Mediterranean-friendly with the addition of North African and Middle Eastern concerns, such as coastal, water and water energy management, the sustainable development of tourism and projects on restoring and preserving cultural heritage.

Many universities have started forming their own ties or networks in the region. The Community of Mediterranean Universities, with 160 members, is just one example.

But interest of the wealthier universities of Western Europe in the region is a stumbling block to greater progress. Werner Stuber, international relations director at Dusseldorf University, Germany, said that institutions with an interest in Mediterranean links have already established them.

Guri Eggan, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that commercial interest was now a driving force of policy-making and unless there was a benefit projects would be ignored.

But Mohamed Knidiri, rector of Marrakesh's Cadi Ayyad university in Morocco, was optimistic. He knew funding was a problem, but "I believe the European Union is convinced that cooperation with the countries to the south of the Mediterranean is a necessity for the survival of the region."

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