UP excels in the latest round of Erasmus Mundus Scholarship awards

Posted on August 04, 2015

Globalisation and the move towards knowledge-based economies have necessitated a new level of internationalisation of higher education. A number of EU programmes provide opportunities for international cooperation in higher education, the most notable of which are the Erasmus Mundus programmes. These programmes are regarded as major vehicles for cooperation between Europe and Africa in higher education (as part of the EU Strategy for Africa) and African countries have been invited to consider the creation of specific Erasmus Mundus ‘windows’. 

The overall objectives of Erasmus Mundus partnerships between South African and European higher education institutions (HEIs) are to enhance the quality of higher education and to promote discourse and understanding among people and cultures through mobility and academic cooperation. This will contribute towards the socio-economic development of non-EU countries targeted by EU external co-operation policy. Further aims of the programme are to support South Africa's efforts in fostering sustainable development (including the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of poverty and inequality) and to improve political, economic and cultural links between the EU and South Africa.

The University of Pretoria (UP) has been a part of this initiative since 2011 and the number of scholarships awarded to the institution has increased steadily year by year. Since 2011 a total of 93 scholarships have been awarded to UP. Until 2014, the scholarships were only granted to South Africans going to Europe, but now European students and staff are also eligible to apply for scholarships to come to South African universities to study or conduct research. This year (2015) UP has been awarded a staggering 44 scholarships, which consist of 27 UP staff and postgraduate students travelling to institutions in Europe and 17 staff members and postgraduate students from European institutions who will be spending a study, exchange or research period at UP. In monetary terms these awards amount to nearly R6,3 million. It is interesting to note that UP attracted the most incoming scholars from Europe in 2015 (32% of the total who were awarded scholarships) – amongst them Staff, Postdoctoratess, PhD’s and Master's students.

There are more than 40 European universities and associations (33 universities and 11 associations), and 31 South African universities and associations (16 universities and 15 associations) involved in the various Erasmus Mundus programmes. 

Each Erasmus Mundus programme has a specific theme.

AESOP Plus: 'A European and South African partnership on heritage and past'

EUROOSA: 'European and South African sustainable partnership for human development'

EUSA_ID: 'Development studies'

EU_SATURN: 'South African programme in tuning for regional needs in higher education'

INSPIRE: 'International science promoting innovation and entrepreneurship'

All Erasmus Mundus programmes have a three-year cycle and the current cycle will end in July 2018. Erasmus Plus was phased in from November 2014, and Erasmus Mundus activities will continue in parallel with Erasmus Plus.  

The Erasmus Mundus initiative, which is endorsed by the South African government and financially supported by the European Commission, has offered numerous study, research and exchange opportunities to South African university staff and postgraduate students in various research and academic fields, at top universities in Europe. Their time at these institutions enabled them to build long-term strategic relationships – not only for themselves while abroad, but also for their home universities on their return. Special projects have resulted from the networks and relationships established between the consortium partners.

At the official Erasmus Mundus pre-departure function, held for the scholarship recipients on Thursday, 23 July 2015, Prof Stephanie Burton, Vice-Principal: Research and Postgraduate Studies at the University, congratulated the recipients and expressed the wish that they make the best of this opportunity when they arrive at their host institution. She also wished them every success with their research endeavours.

The most important achievement of the project, according to Prof Burton, is that it brings participants together to collaborate and share international experiences.

In conclusion she said: 'Travel broadens the mind – you will come back different, and I think that in itself is wonderful.'

Information on the Erasmus Mundus programmes, or the Erasmus Plus programmes, can be obtained from Ms Louise Euthimiou, Manager: International Programmes, Department of Research and Innovation Support. Ms Euthimiou may be contacted via email: [email protected] or by telephone: 012 420 3237.


- Author Ansa Heyl

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