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EU-funded exchange programme seeks more Caribbean applicants

The European Commission wants more participation of the Caribbean in a programme designed to fund exchanges of students and researchers in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The second call of the programme gives €2m (US$2,6million) to the Caribbean and Pacific states. This is the same amount that they received in the first call of the programme, launched in December 2010.

The Intra-ACP Academic Mobility scheme which promotes higher education cooperation between countries in the ACP was issued on 10 February.

A European Commission (EC) official told Research Caribbean that in order to ensure budget availability for the next calls for proposals, and based on the experience of the first call, the available budget was maintained for the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Only one proposal was received from the Caribbean, said the official.

“While there was a satisfactorily high level of applications submitted in the first year of selection for Africa, there is nevertheless still a need to achieve a more balanced regional spread among applications for the Caribbean and Pacific regions,” the EC spokesperson said.

The EC will in 2012 address this by intensifying its efforts on promoting the programme in these regions.

An information session was held in Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic at the end of February and another one is planned for the Pacific region.

“We invite interested Higher Education Institutes to apply,” said an EC official, adding that in order to submit a good proposal, applicants should ensure that it matches the call requirements, that the partners involved are committed, and that they have defined responsibilities.

The programme brings together funding partnerships between higher education institutions from different countries within ACP, and grants for students and academics to carry out research or teaching in another country covered by the programme.

These partnerships are envisaged to strengthen inter-university cooperation in the regions and provide major benefits for participating universities.

The other issue is that the master’s and doctoral programmes offered by the partnership are high quality programmes and are in line with the thematic fields defined in the call.

The winning partnership in the Caribbean for 2011, coordinated by the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, included the University of Guyana (Guyana), University of Belize (Belize) and the University of Haiti.

Other participants were the University of the South Pacific (Fiji), the University of Papua New Guinea, the University of Timor Leste and the National University of Samoa.

Africa will get €10m in the call, an increase from the €7m allocated to Africa in the first call.

The total amount in the Intra-ACP Academic Mobility scheme is €12 million (US$15.8m) and is funded by the European Development Fund.

Yohannes Woldetensae, a senior official in the African Union’s Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology said the African allocation had been increased because of the interest generated by the first call.

“There were many applications. So the increase is to respond to that need,” he told Research Africa in a telephone interview from the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The programme helps universities in ACP countries set up cooperation partnerships with each other. It aims to increase access to quality education in these regions, help stem the brain drain and improve the mobility of academics and other university staff.

In Africa, the programme received applications from 32 African groupings to its first call, of which only three were selected.

Woldetensae said the successful partnerships from the first call will organise academic mobility programmes across Africa involving 380 individuals: 234 master’s, 102 PhD and 44 staff exchanges. Five partnerships would be selected in the second call, he said.

The Intra-ACP Academic Mobility programme builds on the Mwalimu Nyerere African Union Scholarship offered by the African Union—but with one key difference, says Woldetensae.

“In the Nyerere scholarship students applied directly to the AU. In the mobility grants, students have to apply to the partnerships. The partners have an option to harmonise their curricula through student mobility and they can exchange academic staff,” he said.

Universities that want to receive funding must form partnerships involving a maximum of 12 African or Caribbean institutions. The closing date for applications in the second call is 10 May 2012.