Joint Programmes: the story of Erasmus Mundus

Joint Programmes: the story of Erasmus Mundus

Joint programmes continue to be a hot topic in our field. So hot, in fact, that the EAIE has just launched its first ever Network on Joint Programmes. The European Commission recently released a new publication – Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees: The story so far – featuring four policy papers that address the unique aspects of joint programmes. The EU-funded Erasmus Mundus joint programme began in 2004. After over a decade of development, it provides a timely case study to reflect on practice and challenges.

From 2004–2015, 328 Erasmus Mundus joint programmes were created and more than 18,600 Master’s scholarships and 1400 doctoral fellowships were funded. Below, brief summaries of the four articles on this unique programme encourage you to explore the publication in more detail.

Employability and joint programmes

By: Elizabeth Colucci
European policies frame the development of the Erasmus Mundus programme. Employability, since 2004, has been one of the main objectives of the Erasmus Mundus programme, including:

  • compatibility of degree systems and study recognition,
  • integrating and internationalising curricula,
  • developing international collaboration,
  • attracting international talent,
  • encouraging mobility across borders
  • enhancing employability.

Over the years, enhancing employability has gained traction not only in the European policy discourse but also in the selection criteria of new joint programmes. Current joint programmes have a strong connection with the work world through internships, career guidance and associate partnerships with industry. Yet, employability in itself is a complex concept not easily isolated and measured; at the same time, it is different than employment. The most recent Erasmus Mundus Graduate Impact Survey shows that alumni have a higher employment rate than other graduates (2/3 of the respondents were employed at the time of the survey). While this says a lot about employment, it says little about employability. To what extent do joint programmes provide an added value in terms of graduate employability? Isolating the employability skills learned during a joint programme is a challenging proposition and one that requires further research.

Student experience

By: Leasa Weimer
Each Erasmus Mundus joint programme is a uniquely-designed educational experience for students. The diversity from one programme to the next comes in the form of different disciplines, higher education institutions, countries, international scholars, and mobility schemes. While the student experience is also very diverse, there are common perspectives that Erasmus Mundus students share.

According to the 2014 Erasmus Mundus Graduate Impact Study (download the study) most students were motivated to enrol due to the scholarship offering (65%) and the possibility to live and study in Europe (51%). As an Erasmus Mundus student, you must live and study in at least two countries, if not more. With this intensive mobility comes tension between the incredible exposure to intercultural opportunities and learning and at the same time the challenges of visa processes and cultural adjustment. The learning that occurs during the Erasmus Mundus experience extends beyond the international classroom. The Impact Study found that 56% of student and alumni cite the development of intercultural competency as the greatest impact experienced. Since the programme is promoted as a one of excellence, students come with high expectations for quality. Thus, the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association has created a Course Quality Advisory Board to monitor student services.

Quality assurance, accreditation and the recognition

By: Axel Aerden
When the Erasmus Mundus programme began, it was nearly impossible to grant a joint degree due to national legal frameworks. However, as the programme developed, so did the legal frameworks. Although most European countries have the ability to grant a joint degree, there are still obstacles. Over the past decade, the Erasmus Mundus programme has also been the impetus for coordinated efforts regarding quality assurance and accreditation systems. In 2015, a new European Approach to quality assurance was adopted by the European Ministers which will support joint programmes in navigating national standards and criteria that may otherwise be impediments to providing high-quality programmes.

Management of joint programmes

By: Béatrice Delpouve
With the birth of Erasmus Mundus came new management tools to create, develop, and support such a distinctive higher education offering. There are five main aspects of managing a joint programme:

  1. Ensuring a supportive institutional framework: a mutually agreed upon strategic partnership among consortium members forms a crucial framework as well as investment from each institutional programme, department, and university leadership.
  2. Development: design of the content, services, and financing.
  3. Execution: programme implementation
  4. Evaluation: involving both internal and external stakeholders in the continuous quality assurance of the programme
  5. Sustainability: efforts made to sustain the future viability of the programme beyond the European Commission funding.

For each of these essential management aspects, human resources are the key to success. Well-trained staff and faculty can make or break a joint programme.

Overall, the publication celebrates how Erasmus Mundus has been a framework for the continual evolution of joint programmes in Europe, from quality to management. While Erasmus Mundus remains to be a model for joint programme development around the world, there are still enhancements in its future.

Leasa is Knowledge Development Adviser at the EAIE.

If you have an interest or are involved in joint programmes, make sure to check out this week’s blog post on the launch of the EAIE’s new Network Joint Programmes! At the 28th Annual EAIE Conference in Liverpool, taking place 13–16 September, we officially kick off the Network’s activities with their official reception on Tuesday evening. Don’t miss out!

Leasa Weimer
EAIE, the NetherlandsLeasa is Senior Adviser for Knowledge Initiatives for the EAIE.