ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan, and the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Pakistan organized a ceremony to brief Vice Chancellors and Rectors of public and private sector universities about the ERASMUS+ Programme for the period 2014-2020.
The consultation session, held at the Commission Secretariat in Islamabad, was attended by Vice Chancellors and Rectors from a number of universities, while several universities were linked through the HEC video conferencing facility.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC, and Jean-François Cautain Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan, briefed the academia heads and managers in detail about the ERASMUS+ Programme and the opportunities offered under this initiative for Pakistani higher education institutions, students and staff.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed welcomed the Ambassador and the EU delegation in the HEC Commission. He said that HEC will create a link on its official website to give details about the ERASMUS+ Programme so that students, faculty of universities and educational institutions could access the relevant information. He said they will ensure follow-up steps in order to monitor progress with regard to the initiative.
The Chairman said that HEC has been facilitating Pakistani students to benefit from such programmes, as the Government of Pakistan and HEC accord due importance to international collaboration in the higher education sector. He added that HEC has signed many agreements with foreign countries like the United States, France, Australia, and Germany to enhance collaboration. He mentioned that China, New Zealand and numerous other countries have also expressed their interest in collaboration with Pakistan. “We have recently reached an agreement with Australia under the New Colombo Plan in this direction,” he added.
The Ambassador Jean-François Cautain thanked Chairman HEC for organizing the event and said that the European Union recognizes the important role that higher education plays in the economic and social development of any country. Higher education increases entrepreneurship, creates jobs and contributes to a stronger civil society and better governance. The Ambassador added that the capacity building component of the programme is very important from the development perspective as it aims to strengthen the relationships between higher education systems and the wider economic and social environment.
Programmes like ERASMUS+ aim to promote inter-cultural learning and dialogue and strengthen the relationship between European countries and partner countries, such as Pakistan. ERASMUS+ funding for Asia in 2014-2017 is 211.7 million EUR. The programme, which is currently open for applications, offers scholarships to students and staff to study in Europe and funds capacity building projects between Pakistani and European universities.
In 2015, 140 Pakistani students and staff received ERASMUS+ scholarship. Considering the population of Pakistan and the funding levels, there is space to increase the number of beneficiaries from Pakistan. The EU is currently promoting ERASMUS+ among academic community to encourage the universities to further explore the options the programme offers.
Opportunities under ERASMUS+ include full Master and Doctoral degrees, short-term scholarships to staff and students at all levels, Jean Monnet grants for European Union studies and research and funding for inter-university capacity building projects. Capacity building component will finance joint projects based on multilateral partnerships to fund curriculum development and modernization, joint or double degrees, new diploma, modern teaching and learning practices, upgrading of facilities and equipment, improving university governance and creating better links between higher education and the world of work. This action will also finance projects aiming to have an impact on national systems, through the involvement of national authorities, alongside universities.