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Tempus-MEDA : Euro-mediterranean co-operation in higher education

The first selection of projects under the extension to Mediterranean Partners of the TEMPUS Programme of higher education co-operation was completed in June 2003, marking the effective launch of TEMPUS activities in the Mediterranean Region, dubbed ‘TEMPUS-MEDA’. Those activities have been incorporated into the National Indicative Programmes (NIPs) of Partners receiving bilateral aid under MEDA. TEMPUS was first created in 1990 for helping Central and Eastern European countries restructure their higher education systems after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The extension of the programme to the Mediterranean Partners was agreed on 27 June 2002 by the EU Council of Ministers with a € 43 million allocation for the duration of the NIPs 2002-2004.

Two main activities are carried out within TEMPUS-MEDA, namely Joint Euro-Mediterranean Projects, and Individual Mobility Grants. Joint Projects involve co-operation of universities and other entities on both shores of the Mediterranean aiming at improving curricula, and modernising academic institutions in the Partners. The grants benefit Mediterranean and EU teaching and administrative staff. A third type of activities includes structural and complementary measures, notably training, information and dissemination.

Augusto Gonzalez Hernandez is one of the persons in charge of the TEMPUS Programme within the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, and Fabienne Bessonne is following TEMPUS activities within the extension to Mediterranean Partners at the Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office. Euromed Special Feature asked them both to elaborate on how the Programme works, and what opportunities it holds for the Mediterranean Region.


Euromed Special Feature: How do you assess the launch of TEMPUS in the Mediterranean Region?

Augusto Gonzalez Hernandez: The extension of TEMPUS to Mediterranean countries stems from a political initiative at the highest level. For the record, the Spanish Foreign Minister wrote to Commissioner Patten to say “There is a gap that perhaps ought to be filled, i. e. higher education co-operation between Europe and the MEDA countries”. This initiative gave rise to exchanges among relevant departments within the Commission, resulting in the extension of TEMPUS to the Mediterranean Partners. This political initiative received a strong boost from the events on 11 September, which increased political pressure and speeded up the process. The launch of TEMPUS in the region has been a success insofar as this political initiative could be followed up and the extension made a reality in an extremely limited time span. The very tight deadline was a problem for potential beneficiaries, which could have had a negative impact with the first Call for Proposals of 15 December 2002, but the opposite was true. There were expectations, and as soon as people heard about a possible extension of TEMPUS they started making or re-activating contacts. The outcome has been a resounding success. We have had a success rate of around 60%, that is 33 projects shared between the 8 countries and territories concerned. The outcome is not very different to those of the other regions.

Fabienne Bessonne: This reflects the fact, I believe, that universities in the MEDA Partners really need to enter into dialogue with European universities. Good projects have come from almost everywhere. It has to be stressed that European experts, who are used to assessing projects from other geographical areas, found that projects from the MEDA Region were rather better. Thus it shows that demand is there in the Mediterranean Partners, and there is some interest in the EU, since such co-operation projects can be initiated by either side.

To what extent can TEMPUS-MEDA be viewed as the Higher Education section of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, since it can also help prepare Mediterranean Partners for the Euro-Med Free Trade Area?

A.G.H.: TEMPUS promotes the transfer of know-how, enables curriculum development, facilitates individual exchanges so as to better prepare the ground for making learning easier, since adequate training as well as management and other skills are required. This is the actual substance of co-operation projects. It is done only at bilateral level, on a country basis. TEMPUS is a programme that stems from bilateral co-operation, but also holds the opportunity of carrying out regional activities. TEMPUS is a significant instrument since the financial amounts reach a certain level. TEMPUS is therefore a central component of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

F.B.: Of course higher education has a role to play in preparations for the free-trade area, and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The scope of the TEMPUS Programme is wider than that of bilateral ‘higher education’ programmes within the MEDA Programme, since it is open to all countries in the Region and is primarily about strengthening co-operation with universities in the EU. The structural upgrading of higher education in the Mediterranean Partners is rather done through other MEDA activities such as Tunisia’s Higher Education Modernisation Programme 2003. This has been granted € 48 million, and aims to improve the employability of young graduates.

How can general objectives defined for the whole region be reconciled with each Partner’s priorities, particularly those set out in National Indicative Programmes?

A.G.H.: There is a general framework to TEMPUS that provides criteria for the various categories of projects. The criteria are about the contents and the mounting of projects, but there are also national priorities determined by the European Commission in dialogue with each Partner as regards the implementation of the TEMPUS Programme. Those priorities have a certain weight in the selection of projects. It has to be stressed that when engaging with national authorities on TEMPUS specific priorities, the Commission keeps an eye on regional priorities, and any priorities identified within the National Indicative Programmes, so as to ensure consistency. We are attentive to what is being done within other bilateral co-operation activities. Our contacts on education are the same persons as are involved in defining other higher education programmes. This doesn’t pose a problem, since with most NIPs educational priorities are defined in a rather general way. In the case of Tunisia for instance, there is at the same time an operation aiming to strengthen the country’s capacity in higher education, and participation in TEMPUS. You mustn’t forget that TEMPUS has nothing to do with infrastructure, nor with educational systems, save through co-operation between universities in Europe and in beneficiary countries. Different activities are thus complementary. If for instance a policy of higher education modernisation such as that in Tunisia is being supported under MEDA’s general framework, promoting partnership between businesses and universities, the TEMPUS Programme can be incorporated into the overall strategy. In any case, universities have the initiative in the TEMPUS Programme.

F.B.: EuropeAid Cooperation Office ensures consistency and complementarity of TEMPUS activities with the MEDA Programme, and the Delegations too have an important role to play by taking part in MEDA programming, and maintaining political dialogue in each Partner.

Can you elaborate on the role that non-academic institutions such as NGOs or private businesses can play in TEMPUS activities?

A.G.H.: TEMPUS aims at reinforcing an aspect that has been there all the time, that is support to civil society development. This is not an adjunct or a side issue in relation to the programme’s fundamental aims. It is one of the clearly defined objectives of the TEMPUS Programme. There is a specific operation aiming at strengthening civil society structures. It has to do with the public sector, but it also involves players that are not necessarily public bodies. Although TEMPUS remains a programme for academic co-operation, it is an open one and it increasingly involves civil society participants, including NGOs. As to private business involvement, it is a classic feature of TEMPUS, which has enabled university/business co-operation right from the start. It is there as well in TEMPUS MEDA, and it is going to be reinforced, since after all the aim is to prepare the citizens of those countries to adapt to a society in transition. In this context the relationship between universities and enterprises is essential as the aim is to get graduates ready for the labour market. As TEMPUS is being developed, guidelines have to be issued to allow for connecting universities’ initiatives with the Partners’ policies. This is why we have developed structural and complementary measures that make the link even stronger as they are tied to specific national priorities.

F.B.: The core of a TEMPUS partnership in the Mediterranean is in effect made up of two universities, one in a Partner, and one in an EU country. The third partner has to come from the EU, and can be an NGO or a business. But of course the choice of such partners has to square with the project concerned. This is why university/business partnership within travel-to-work areas is promoted in the Mediterranean Partners as in Europe, notably in an attempt to improve the employability of young graduates. As regards NGOs, it also has to do with the project which underpins the partnership. If a partnership aims for instance at developing new environmental curricula, you can have a situation where NGOs in Mediterranean Partners have a good knowledge of the field, and can contribute their expertise.

Most Joint Euro-Mediterranean Projects involve only one Mediterranean Partner, whereas others include two or more. Is there a pre-defined distribution between the two options?

A.G.H.: No, there is no pre-defined distribution. The programme is the addition of co-operation activities between the European Commission and the various Partners. Those activities have now been brought under a single umbrella, which allows for building a regional dimension on the basis of bilateral co-operation activities. To start with, we fund projects that involve higher education institutions in partner countries or territories, and we leave the door open to ‘regional’ initiatives. What is foremost in our analysis of projects is quality. We do not try to fund regional or bilateral projects for the sake of it if the quality isn’t there. The fact is that among good projects there is a fair proportion of ‘regional’ ones, even though there is a higher percentage of bilateral projects. I don’t believe that quotas will be set in future either. But as the programme unfolds there will be more opportunities for regional projects. It is in our interest to develop this regional chapter. You can find relatively similar concerns in all those countries, so regional projects can be used to see to what extent common answers can be given, and to put forward different answers for comparison. It is the same logic as in Europe. Comparison is always encouraged in order to enable each country to get the opportunity to learn from the experience of others, and to possibly use it. This is something we encourage before the applications come in, and not during the selection procedure. We mention this possibility to applicants, without any constraint.

F.B.: Each country has its own allocation under TEMPUS, and in the case of ‘multi-country’ projects involving several Mediterranean Partners, everyone of them contributes. If four MEDA Partners take part in a project they all contribute financially. Selection is done according to each project’s own merit. Projects are selected by the Commission, notably in the light of the results of a technical and academic assessment (the academic part being conducted by Mediterranean and EU academics) and consultations with the authorities in the Partner countries and territories.

Do academics selected for a Mobility Grant aimed at preparing a Joint Project have any guarantee that their project will be ultimately accepted?

A.G.H.: No, there is nothing automatic.

F.B.: Individual Mobility Grants are awarded and assessed according to specific criteria. It can therefore happen that an academic gets a Mobility Grant to prepare a project to find that the project has not been selected because it was poor quality or there were better ones at hand.

Are there any criteria or quotas defining the proportion of EU academics going to Med Partners and Med academics going to EU countries thanks to a TEMPUS grant?

A.G.H.: There is a certain availability of funds per country for this activity. There are no pre-determined amounts. We look at the state of demand for the main type of projects, joint projects. When those joint projects have been funded, a certain amount normally remains available for funding grants. Depending on the quality of applications, grants will be funded for people in the Partners wishing to go to Europe and vice versa. We don’t want to set up partitions separating project types. The programme is so designed that more grants are awarded for visits from the Partners to the EU than the other way round because there are different sorts of grants. For preparing a joint project or an event, for instance, mobility can only be from the Partners to the EU. It’s only by taking part in training activities that Europeans can go to the southern shore of the Mediterranean. People from the Partners can also go to countries due to join the EU next year, which already have had some experience of TEMPUS.

Dialogue between cultures and civilisations is on the agenda of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. What can Tempus contribute?

A.G.H.: TEMPUS can impact on that dialogue on two levels. One of them is co-operation on curricula, where you can put in the perception you have because of your cultural background, so that different points of view come together, resulting in mutual enrichment. This can be eventually reflected in the way those curricula are spelled out and taught. Another level is the flow of exchanges generated by each project in the TEMPUS Programme. This is one of the programme’s major assets, whereby it provides something other operations will perhaps be at pains to provide, that is a framework for multilateral co-operation and constant dialogue. This communication flow will sooner or later impact on the perception each side has of the other’s culture. The impact will be all the greater as the programme will affect a large number of people. I believe this mobilisation of human resources generated by TEMPUS creates in turn a constant dialogue between cultures and civilisations.

Euro-Mediterranean exchange programmes can be hampered by visa problems, notably because of the Israeli-Arab issue, and of some EU countries’ immigration controls. How do you assess that type of difficulty in the case of TEMPUS?

A.G.H.: You have to be aware of that sort of problem being a possibility. Participants are normally alerted accordingly. If they apply soon enough and if Member States co-operate, all is well. According to our experience there is no obstacle to visas being issued for TEMPUS purposes, but the waiting period can be a problem. In any case, the TEMPUS network is at the participants’ disposal.

F.B.: Yes, there is a TEMPUS focal point in every EU Member State, and a TEMPUS National Office in each MEDA Partner. They can make mobility easier, and they can be contacted in case of a visa problem (see list in Annex).

Can you clarify the ways in which TEMPUS will interact without duplication with other co-operation activities in the same area? One can think of Erasmus Mundus, a programme under preparation that should be adopted next year.

There are different instruments with different purposes, with no contradiction between them. This is what happens with Erasmus Mundus, which will be open to the MEDA Partners. But the type of activities that will be supported under Erasmus Mundus has nothing to do with the activities being supported under TEMPUS. TEMPUS encourages multilateral co-operation in curriculum development, institution building, restructuring of university management. We will award grants for short visits pursuing the programme’s objectives, but no scholarships for studying outside the framework of curriculum development projects. Scholarships will however be granted to nationals of the MEDA Partners wishing to follow an ‘Erasmus Mundus’ Master Course within the programme. There is neither duplication nor contradiction between the two. Erasmus Mundus aims in particular at making European higher education more attractive to the rest of the world, notably through scholarships for third country students, in the hope that this will provide them with material they will be able to use when back in their home country.

F.B.: TEMPUS can provide for student mobility, but within a joint euro-mediterranean project, not at individual level. TEMPUS has a special place in higher education co-operation, which has been maintained for nearly 15 years. Its implementation in the MEDA region is a step forward.

Israel is now the only Mediterranean Partner not entitled to receive MEDA funding for TEMPUS activities. What are the prospects for Israeli participation?

A.G.H.: First of all Israel takes part in the programme on a self-financing basis. Secondly the value added the TEMPUS Programme can have for Israel comes from regional co-operation. As Israel receives no direct funding, bilateral co-operation doesn’t make sense.

F.B.: There was no regional project with Israeli participation under last year’s Call for Proposals. We’ll see for this year.

How do you see the future of TEMPUS-MEDA within the Wider Europe-New Neighbourhood policy?

A.G.H.: The method of ‘Wider Europe – New Neighbourhood’ is actually being tested under TEMPUS already, as TEMPUS covers all relevant countries and more. TEMPUS is THE Programme that today covers the enlarged Europe’s neighbourhood. Nothing rules out co-operation activities involving Morocco and Ukraine or Egypt and Croatia, for example. TEMPUS enables co-operation between regions. The only difficulty I can see in launching co-operation across regions (inter-regional co-operation) lies in the programme’s complex financing arrangements. Those could make such co-operation extremely difficult, but it is feasible in theory. When the extension of TEMPUS to the MEDA countries and territories was first envisaged, some thought was given to trying to see whether co-operation around the Mediterranean could be set up, which would enable non EU participants, notably the Balkan countries, to take part in projects involving MEDA Partners. But when you propose some inter-regional partnership (EU/Morocco/Uzbekistan, for instance), you have to prove it brings real added value. It is not impossible, however, to make projects across regions. Regional activities are built on the basis of bilateral ones. If there is a request for a project involving, say, Bosnia and Egypt, there is no reason why it could not be financed. It is not impossible to imagine new mechanisms having to be found to face the challenges of co-operation within Wider Europe. The instrument envisaged by the Commission does not rule out the existence of a specific programme for Wider Europe in Education and Training. Without prejudging political decisions laying the ground for any initiative, it can be said that a future specific instrument for educational co-operation based on the experience of TEMPUS cannot be ruled out.

F.B.: It would be appropriate that TEMPUS play a pilot role for testing the concept of Wider Europe Neighbourhood. All the EU’s neighbours could be viewed as a single region so as to be allowed to co-operate among themselves, and with European universities. But the MEDA Partners would have to gear up a bit to work with Eastern European countries which have a long-standing experience of TEMPUS.


Mr. Daho Allab
Tel: +213 21 914563
e-mail: allabpnc@yahoo.fr

Mr. Hany Helal
Tel: +20 10 1623162
e-mail: hhelal@link.net

Contact details pending confirmation

Mr. Ahmad Abu Al Haija
Tel: +962 77 212200
e-mail: Haija@just.edu.jo

Mr. Ahmad Jammal
Tel: +961 1 371477
e-mail: ajammal@ul.edu.lb

Mr. Fouad M. Ammor
Tel: +212 7 706173
e-mail: ammor75@hotmail.com

Palestinian Authority
Not yet designated

Ms. Mouna Hassoun
P.O. Box 31983
SY - Damascus
Tel : +963 11 5127345
Fax: +963 11 2237710
e-mail: mhassoun@scs-net.org

Mr. Jamil Chaker
Tel: +216 1 844565
e-mail: jamil.chaker@mes.rnu.tn

Brussels,08 02 2003
European Union Redaction
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