Transatlantic agreements that have led to 3,000 European students benefiting from exchange programmes with universities and colleges in the United States and Canada are underfunded, the European Commission has said.
Viviane Reding, the education commissioner, announced that Brussels would formally adopt proposals from the Council of Ministers for the cooperation schemes to be renewed until 2005, but she complained of the "lack of budgetary resources available on the European side".
Ms Reding said the budgets of €8.6 million (£5 million) for the European Union-US and €3.65 million for the EU-Canada schemes are "well below what is needed to give a new impetus to transatlantic cooperation in education and training".
She added that the commission estimated that the budgets for the 2001-05 period needed to be €14 million for US exchanges and €10 million for those with Canada, noting that Washington and Ottawa had been prepared to match EU funds.
By contrast, the budgets for the 1995-2000 schemes had been e7.4 million and e4.1 million respectively, meaning that the Canadian scheme will suffer a funding cut.
Both new agreements are to be signed at summits between the EU and the US on December 18 in Washington and between the EU and Canada on December 19 in Ottawa. Formal adoption will follow a debate in the European Parliament in February 2001.
The programmes, first agreed in 1995, fund the creation of joint consortia between universities on both sides of the Atlantic. They must include at least three higher and vocational education institutions from each continent.
Ms Reding welcomed "readiness shown by the US and Canada to pursue and intensify this cooperation, within the context of increasing internationalisation of education," and regretted that "education remained the poor relation of the European Union's external policies".