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Towards joint European degrees. EACEA proposes a call for proposals under the Erasmus+ programme

Photo credit: European Union, 2019 - Dati BendoWith a new call published in the framework of the Erasmus+ 2022 Work Programme by the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), the European commission encourages a deeper and more effective transnational cooperation in the higher education sector across all Europe to enhance its attractiveness and global competitiveness, and to build a resilient and sustainable European society and economy.

European Commission is proposing higher education institutions holding a valid Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE), and/or public or private organisations active in the fields of education and training or in other fields established in EU Member States or in third countries associated to the Erasmus+ program to build alliances designed to pilot a joint European degree label and test institutionalised EU cooperation instruments, such as a possible European legal status for alliances of higher education institutions. 

Towards a joint European degree label

The call covers two topics. The first is to “to examine, test and facilitate, on a voluntary basis, the delivery of a joint European degree label, based on common criteria". This latest require a joint programme in accordance with the Bologna instruments leading to the award of a joint degree designed and delivered by at least two higher education institutions from at least two different EU Member States. Beneficiaries are required to explore and test the relevance of these criteria for establishing this label, to investigate and to recommend possible optimisation of the proposed set of criteria in view of maximising the attractiveness and potential impact of such a joint European degree label and to elaborate proposals aiming to facilitate the development and implementation of joint degrees in Europe. Later on, "the possible design and delivery, on a voluntary basis, at national, regional or institutional level, of joint degrees at all levels, based on these co-created European criteria, could be envisaged”, the text of the call reads. The Eurropean Commission is pushing for taking in account tools and awards already in place and see what can be improved to meet the needs of the European higher education institutions.

To be financed applicants have to engage in a wide range of activities, such as screening existing joint programmes managed by higher education programs, conducting a joint reflextion with the relevant national regional and academic authorities via meetings, consultation, surveys to work on possible scenarios for the delivery of a joint degree at all levels, based on these co-created European criteria, to be awarded at national, regional or HEI level, in accordance with the National Qualifications Frameworks. of the criteria e possible scenario for the delivery of a joint degrees. The European Commission set a list of minimum requirements to be tested and eventually optimized in order to hit the target to design the aforementioned label (the joint programme has to be designed and delivered by at least 2 higher education institutions from at least 2 different EU Member States, should lead to the award of a joint degree; dissertations should be co-evaluated by supervisors or a committee with members from at least 2 different institutions located in 2 different countries; it should provide enrolled students, regardless of their location, with seamless and free access to the participating HEI´s services such as e.g. IT services, shared infrastructure and facilities; it should be described in ECTS etc.).

Institutionalised cooperation instruments

The second topic aims to examine, test and facilitate the use of existing institutionalised cooperation instruments at European level, such as a possible legal status for alliances of higher education institutions with the objective of facilitating deeper, long-term and flexible transnational cooperation. The EU Commission wishes these alliances, such as the ‘European Universities’ one, to act together and put in place make common strategic decisions, experiment joint recruitment, design joint curricula or pool resources and human, technical, data, education, research and innovation capacities. It also underlined that this initiative is aimed to provide tools and solutions designed to overcome legal and administrative obstacles hindering further forms of transnational cooperation. However, "nothing will be imposed" for both the topics of the call for proposal, as was assured during an info session held for potential applicants. EU Commission wlll be engaged in respecting the higher education institutions' autonomy. The institutionalised cooperation instrument though will allow these istitution to act together, deliver common strategies, design joint curricula, share common budget e put together human resources, data, innovation and research capacities.

Higher education cooperation is a key element in the European Strategy for universities presented on 18 January 2022. The EU Commission is eager to support and enable all universities in Europe to adapt to changing conditions and making them actors of change in the twin green and digital transition and lighthouses of the European way of life. By the adoption of the Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation Member States undertook to facilitate the implementation of joint transnational educational programs and activities, pooling capacity and resources, or awarding joint degrees.

More details on the call

The budget set for this call amounts to 2,000,000 EUR and is evenly distributed between the two topics. The maximum grant amount is 200,000 EUR per project. The grant will reimburse only certain types of costs and costs that were actually incurred for the project at the funding rate fixed in the Grant Agreement (80%). Proposals must be submitted by a consortium of at least 2 applicants (beneficiaries; not affiliated entities), consisted of at least minimum 2 eligible higher education institutions from 2 different eligible countries. Candidate projects have to be submitted no later than October 6, 2022 17.00 CEST.

The evaluation results are expected for January 2023 (indicative). Projects duration is fixed in 12 months to avoid overlapping with other policy development envisaged by the European Commission on both the topics.