More than 70 universities are likely to bid in the first round of the Leonardo da Vinci programme, the five-year Pounds 520 million European vocational initiative launched in the United Kingdom last week.
Leonardo aims "to go beyond" the other vocational training schemes - Petra, Force, Eurotecnet and Comett - according to Achilleas Mitsos, the European Commission's director of training.
It is based on the requirements of Article 1 of the Maastricht Treaty, which calls for the implementation of a European-wide vocational training policy in response to the needs of 20 million Europeans without work.
Dr Mitsos said the programme is intended to be "a laboratory of innovation" in the field of vocational training. James Paice, minister for training at the employment department, said that the UK was a major player in Comett, with 28 university/enterprise training partnerships and thousands of students benefiting from industry placements abroad.
He expected universities to take full advantage of Leonardo, noting that "continuing vocational training is the fastest area of growth in higher education".
Although the overall Leonardo fund is some Pounds 150 million less than planned, the typical university-enterprise consortium can apply for as much as Ecu 300,000 (Pounds 252,000) over three years. For each placement, some Ecu 5,000 (Pounds 4,200) is available for one year.
Universities interested in the Leonardo scheme cover the full range of old and new universities.
They will face stiff competition, with more than 80 further education colleges looking to make bids before the deadline in July.