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At a conference organised by the European Commission on 8-9 February 2017 in Brussels, the Erasmus Mundus Partnerships and future cooperation perspectives were discussed in light of the Erasmus+ programme. The VUB played a major role in Erasmus Mundus Action 2 (EMA2) by participating in more than 15 projects and coordinating 7, including the CARIBU project.

 

Some 100 participants from 15 EU and 30 non-EU countries took part in the conference, including project representatives, experts, grantees and representatives from the EU Institutions. The VUB was represented by Marie Aurousseau (VUB’s International Relations & Mobility Office), along with Dr Abebe Hailu from Jimma University who is the CARIBU Project Co-coordinator, and 3 CARIBU students currently on mobility in Belgium. Victory Falevalu, a Samoan Master in Educational Science-student, was invited to speak on stage on behalf of the EMA2 grantees.

 

What is CARIBU?

CARIBU is an Erasmus Mundus Action 2 partnership programme, coordinated by the VUB, which aims to increase academic mobility, research and capacity-building opportunities between 8 EU universities (Belgium (2), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland, Portugal and Romania) and 12 countries from the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Region (Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Gambia, Ghana, the Bahamas, Suriname, Timor-Leste and Samoa).

 

The project is devoted to creating a mutual forum for scientific cooperation, enhance learning and exchange best practices. The aim is also to meet the needs of the involved countries through support to the development of disadvantaged regions, with special attention given to equal opportunities and gender balance. The consortium covers a broad range of disciplines with seven priority fields (ICT, management, science, agriculture, social sciences, engineering and environment) in which Masters and PhD students as well as academic and administrative staff can take part in mobility schemes under scholarship programmes.

 

The Success of CARIBU within Erasmus Mundus

Looking at the achievements of Erasmus Mundus over the past decade, there were 10 selection rounds, 308 projects worldwide, some 1,600 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) involved as coordinators or partners, some 48,000 mobility flows implemented and some €951 million awarded.

 

CARIBU involves a consortium of 20 partner (8 EU and 12 non-EU) institutions. In all, 182 scholarships were allocated at Master, PhD and staff levels. The VUB received 55 grantees for 52 students (10 PhDs and 42 Masters) and 3 for staff. At the moment, 28 CARIBU students are currently on mobility with the VUB and are expected to graduate in June. These students come from Suriname, Bahamas, Guyana, Samoa, and several African countries (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon, DR Congo, Gambia, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda).

 

The CARIBU project as a whole had a budget of €4 million across the four years it ran. It will wrap up in July 2017. Three elements made the project a tremendous success:

 

  • Strong partnerships with very committed partner institutions who did some excellent promotional work
  • Strategic recruitment aimed at avoiding brain-drain and ensuring the mobility flows support inter-institutional cooperation
  • Clear and transparent administrative and financial coordination was vital and went hand-in-hand with horizontal management of the project with regular consultation with the whole consortium.

 

Victory Falevalu, who is now finishing up her Master’s degree at the VUB, talked at the event, and also explained the impact of CARIBU on her life:

 

“I have looked back and assured myself that I’ve done something good and I have grown personally and professionally during my studies here at the VUB. As a recipient of the CARIBU programme, I am thankful and will forever be grateful for this golden opportunity. The joy of learning in an international and interactive environment has broadened my knowledge to an extent I have never experienced before…. The advancement of my capabilities in designing effective learning environments using available online tools, models and techniques including technology was the most captivating part of my learning experience here at the VUB”.

 

With regard to the conference specifically, she added “As a current beneficiary of the EMA2 programme, attending this conference allowed me to see a clear picture of all the hard work and determination behind the scenes. It is a life-changing experience for all of us, leading to a transformation of our perspectives, competencies, and created more opportunities in capacity-building, careers, personal and professional developments”

 

Moving ahead with Erasmus+

The conference wanted to glean what the main challenges and successes were from the past 10 years of Erasmus Mundus and be able to extract from this lessons and tips to move forward with Erasmus+, and how the latter can be enhanced with learnings from successful projects such as CARIBU.

 

More information 

More information on CARIBU can be found here.

More information on the conference with presentations can be found here.  

Photos from the European Commission Erasmus Mundus conference can be found here.

More information on Erasmus+ can be found here.