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Thursday, 23 October 2008


On Tuesday we voted on a report by French Liberal Marielle de Sarnez seeking more participation in the new Erasmus Mundus programme.

As a member of the Culture and Education Committee and Labour Spokesperson on the Committee, I watched the fate of this report with great interest. The EU is well placed to extend learning across Europe and further afield. The Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus programmes are an excellent way of doing this. I have first hand experience of the worth of these programmes, having had assistants in my office who have benefited from Erasmus.

Erasmus Mundus is an excellent programme well known to university students. The original Erasmus programme provides scholarships to students allowing them to study in another European country as part of their degree. Students who study abroad gain improved language skills and become more employable both at national and international level.

The Erasmus Mundus programme is similar (if slightly less well known) than the original Erasmus. Erasmus Mundus extends cooperation in the field of higher education to 'third countries' outside the EU. It also helps stimulate intercultural dialogue with these countries.

The Erasmus Mundus programme is used to promote the EU as a worldwide centre of excellence in learning. It helps to attract the best post-graduate students to EU universities - top foreign students have traditionally gone to the USA. This has a big impact on improving research and innovation in the EU.

Erasmus Mundus acts under three areas, providing financial support for:
1) joint masters and doctoral programmes between institutions in different countries - including scholarships to allow students to follow these programmes
2) partnerships and enhanced structural cooperation between institutions - including developing human resources
3) promoting EU higher education throughout the world

Mme de Sarnez's report proposed extending the existing scheme from 2009 - 2013.

I thoroughly agreed with Mme de Sarnez when she said "It is a good programme, and considering the difficult times we are going through this is giving a positive image of Europe in the rest of the world." The new Erasmus Mundus Programme has a budget of about €950. 424 scholarships were granted from 2004-2008 to students from third countries in the previous programme. 323 universities took part, 265 of them in Europe.

What could be wrong with any of this, you may ask? Well British Tory and UKIP MEPs found reasons to vote against the report, which was incidentally passed by 623 votes for, 56 against and 5 abstentions. Once again the Tories are way off beam.

Voting against were Tories:
Ashworth, Atkins, Bradbourn, Bushill-Mathews, Callanan, Chichester, Dover, Harbour, Heaton-Harris, Kamall, Kirkhope, McMillan-Scott, Nicholson (Ulster Unionist) Parish, Stevenson, Sturdy, Tannock and Van Orden
and UKIP: Batten, Bloom, Clark, Farage, Titford and Whittaker.

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