As tensions escalate in the Middle East, a consortium of 22 universities around the Mediterranean has been formed to supply distance-learning courses to students in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and Egypt.
Five European universities - Genoa, Barcelona and the three universities in Marseilles - will offer courses in economics, health and the environment to students in the 17 non-European universities.
If the programme proves successful, it may be extended to other fields.
Guido Relini, a marine biologist and president of the European Marine Biology Symposium, is coordinating the project for Genoa. He said the international situation would encourage the consortium "to go ahead and help create an academic community of the Mediterranean" .
The president of the Tethys Consortium, which will run the "European University without Walls", is radiologist Michel Kasbarian of Marseilles-II University. The academic director is Edouard Arzoumanian, a medical professor at Marseilles-II.
"The aim is to create a Mediterranean university without frontiers," Professor Relini said.
The programme was conceived in early 2000, but it has been delayed by the complexities of establishing recognition of titles and credits among universities.
Professor Relini said: "We perhaps underestimated how complicated the bureaucracy involving recognition between seven countries and 22 universities can be. There are hopes of starting the first courses in November."
Details: http://mediteranee.univ-aix. fr/tethys