New action plan recommends boosting HE cooperation

As part of efforts to advance legal migration and mobility, an action plan adopted at the recent European Union-Africa Valletta Summit on Migration recommends boosting higher education cooperation, including promoting the mobility of students and researchers, facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications and improving legal frameworks for country entry and residence for study purposes.

These measures, among many others related to EU migration, were outlined in the Valletta Summit Action Plan adopted at the European Union-Africa Summit on Migration, held in Valletta in Malta from 11 to 12 November.

"What we have agreed is a crucial step in reinforcing our cooperation. We have adopted a Political Declaration and a Valletta Action Plan," Donald Tusk, president of the Belgium-based European Council, said at the press conference of the Valletta Summit on Migration.

The Political Declaration voices a deep concern regarding “the sharp increase in flows of refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants which entails suffering, abuse and exploitation”, and it acknowledges the benefits of well-managed migration and mobility between Europe and Africa.

The declaration states: "We acknowledge that further efforts should be made to advance legal migration and mobility possibilities, including at bilateral level, by fostering well-managed mobility between and within the continents as well as encouraging policies that promote regular channels for migration, including labour migration and the mobility of entrepreneurs, students and researchers, including at regional level."

Migration for development

One of the actions noted in the Valletta Action Plan is: “Integrate migration in development and poverty eradication strategies and programmes, in particular in areas such as labour market/employment, private sector development, education, health, social protection and security”.

To implement the Political Declaration and link migration to Africa's higher education development, the action plan included the following:
  • • Supporting the implementation of harmonised qualifications in higher education through the Africa-EU harmonisation, tuning, quality and accreditation initiatives.
  • • Improving the legal framework for conditions of entry and residence in the EU applicable to third country nationals for the purpose of research, studies and training.
  • • Promoting mobility of students, researchers and entrepreneurs between Africa and Europe.
  • • The use of the Erasmus+ annual call and national programmes of EU member states and associated countries to support mobility of students and university staff between Europe and Africa partner countries.
  • • The use of Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions calls to foster both the mobility of researchers between Europe and Africa as well as to encourage joint research projects.
  • • Strengthening partnership and 'brain circulation', building on the model of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership grants and the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area initiative.
  • • Facilitating the short stay visa issuing processes for certain types of visitors, such as students and researchers.
The way forward

Tusk said: "We have adopted a Political Declaration and a Valletta Action Plan. We now need to get moving on implementing it, in partnership and solidarity.”

"We have agreed a long list of very concrete actions to be implemented by the end of 2016,” he added, mentioning a few examples, including: “We will double the number of scholarships for students and researchers through the Erasmus+ programme."

"And to help implement what we have agreed, we have launched the EU Trust Fund with a minimum of €1.8 billion [US$1.9 billion],” Tusk pointed out.

"A meeting at senior officials’ level will take place no later than January 2017 to take stock of the overall progress in the implementation of this action plan," the Political Declaration indicated.