EU: More funding for Erasmus

The European Parliament last week gave the green light to a second funding round for the EU's Erasmus Mundus Programme which aims to promote Europe as a centre of academic excellence. In backing the estimated budget of EUR950 million (US$1,227 million) for the 2009-2013 period, the parliament adopted changes to some of the criteria to simplify visa applications for participants from non-EU countries and to ensure a balance in terms of students' gender and country of origin.

Parliament's rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez said during a debate in Strasbourg: "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."

De Sarnez underlined the importance of ensuring a balanced participation in gender and the countries the students come from. At present there was a majority of students from Asia and more should be done to ensure there were more from other parts of the world.

Commissioner Ján Figel said: "As soon as the legislative procedure is finalised, we will launch our call for proposals, in order to ensure the smooth continuation of existing courses and the selection of new programmes."

Students from non-EU countries can obtain scholarships for masters or doctorate programmes offered by the participating universities. For the first time in the new funding stream from 2009, European students will also be able to apply for scholarships to participate in the masters programmes, though the majority of scholarships will still go to students and academics from countries outside the EU.

In the previous Erasmus Mundus programme, 4,424 scholarships were granted to students from outside the EU with 323 universities taking part, 265 of them in Europe.