About the Project

SignpostIn 2008, the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) launched a mapping exercise to identify the main programmes developed by the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to implement their international Education and Training cooperation policies with countries outside the EU/EEA (third countries). This first exercise resulted in a comparative analysis which originally targeted all levels of education. Notably, this included summary descriptions of around 487 external cooperation programmes (i.e. programmes supporting cooperation in education and training between EU and third countries) and other initiatives in the 30 countries (EU+EEA). For further details and a comprehensive overview of the main results of this first phase, see the section 'Links' to directly access the final report.

The second phase of the study started in January 2010 and aimed to update and disseminate the most relevant outcomes in the field of higher education and create this online database. The database has been designed as a practical tool offering a comprehensive overview of up-to-date (reference year 2010) and relevant information on external cooperation policies and programmes. Its main target groups are policy-makers and higher education practitioners.

Scope of the Project

The online database provides information on higher education external cooperation policies in the following countries: EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA. Such information is provided in short comprehensive introductory fiches which enable users to get up-to-date information on national key data on the internationalisation of their Higher Education systems, main policies and strategies in place and key actors involved in the overall process. In most cases, these also offer a selection of useful links which help direct the user to further information.

Information on policies is complemented by a section devoted to ongoing external cooperation programmes. This section constitutes the core of the database. It includes national, publicly funded  external cooperation programmes (i.e. not covering EU funded/co-funded activities or activities funded through other international sources) implemented by EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The education levels  covered by the programmes focus exclusively on higher education (i.e. academic and vocational-oriented).

The programmes included are characterised by the fact that they: 
  • Enable the effective learning mobility of students, scholars or teaching staff in higher education institutions;
  •  Enable effective cooperation between higher education institutions (between EU and Third Countries higher education institutions (HEIs) such as development of partnerships, joint study programmes, joint degrees, trans-national education, development projects).
  • Foster capacity building (e.g. support of education policy reforms in third countries);

These programmes are structured initiatives, measures and actions with a clear budget line and which are operational, i.e. resulting in concrete outputs and results.


The general purpose of this online database is to provide an online , up-to-date and user-friendly tool to help users have a better understanding of recent external cooperation programmes and policies in higher education and/or to simply  get access to relevant examples. As stressed above, this tool primarily builds on the most relevant outcomes that were identified as part of the first phase of the study which was then updated during the second phase of the project. As such, the information provided on this site should not be considered as exhaustive but rather as a snapshot’ of useful and up-to-date informationt that could be useful, for example, in future policy or programme designing in the area of external cooperation. In the same vein, this tool should be considered as a starting point/means to foster mutual learning in this area and thus could be updated and expanded on in the future.

Therefore the information provided on this online database is not meant to reflect the level of activity of a specific country in terms of external cooperation. A higher number of programmes does not mean, for instance, that a country is more active than another. In addition, it is important to note that the variation in terms of financial size between programmes is significant.
Overall, this ‘snapshot' only reflects the number of programmes/templates which have been validated by the national correspondents who contributed to this project on a voluntary basis. In a few instance the information provided on this website could not be validated, in particular the information related to the fiches provided in the ‘Policies’ section. When this applies, this is clearly indicated at the top of the file (‘This fiche has not been fully validated at national level’).
Finally it is important to note that the programmes included in the ‘Programmes’ section are all examples of national and publicly funded programmes. As such, EU funded/co-funded, private activities or activities funded through other international sources are not covered. Similarly, examples of programmes or activities funded at regional or institutional level have not been included. Whenever considered useful, links to complementary websites to programmes or databases e.g. funded at regional level have been, as a minimum, included in some introductory fiches (see ‘Policies’ section). 


Building on the experience of the first phase of the project, the methodology followed for the second phase consisted of three main tasks:

1. Review and screening of the data collected under Phase I in relation to higher education

The comparative analysis of the programmes/instruments fostering external cooperation in education and training during the first phase of the project, highlighted that most of them concerned higher education. The first task within the second phase of the project was to extract the most relevant examples applying to higher education, taking into consideration their relevance vis-à-vis the purpose and scope of Phase II. This preliminary screening was discussed between the contractor undertaking this project and the European Commission (DG EAC).


Regarding actors/national correspondents who provided assistance to the project team, the persons who cooperated under Phase I were contacted in priority, to ensure consistency. In most cases, they were representatives of Ministries (e.g. responsible for Education/Higher Education, Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, Employment, etc.), specialised agencies and other organisations responsible international activities in the field of higher education (e.g. funding agencies).    

2-   Review and update of introductory fiches and programmes

As a result of task 1, the list of relevant programmes and contextual  information on policies were reviewed/updated  and formatted according to a comparable template structured around the criteria set for Phase II. Overall, the European Commission and the contractor agreed that two main types of information would be disseminated online: 
  • Introductory fiches (see ‘Policies’ section of the site) on up-to date national policies and strategies including : key data on the internationalisation of higher education; main ongoing external cooperation policies and strategies in higher education; key actors involved and useful links for further reading;
  • Updated and validated templates describing the programmes (see ‘Programmes’ section) identified under both Phases I and II.

An important requirement was to only include ongoing policies and running programmes (reference year 2010) and design material in an attractive and readable format for the future database.

3-   Validation of the material with the assistance of Ministries’ or specialised agencies’ representatives

Once reviewed and edited both types of materials were submitted to those national correspondents who had, in most cases, already contributed to Phase I. Generally, templates for programmes were sent to national correspondents responsible for specific programme(s) and acting as either Ministry’s or specialised agency’s/body’s representatives. In addition to confirming the accuracy of the information provided in the templates, these were asked to complete missing information and also to provide additional information on any new programme supporting higher education external cooperation developed recently.  

Meanwhile, introductory fiches were submitted  to those correspondents who had previously validated the national reports under Phase I. These contact persons were generally Ministries’s representatives who deal with and/or are active in Erasmus-Mundus-related activities (e.g. being part of the Erasmus-Mundus Committee or national structures).

4-   Designing and developing the online database

This online database has been conceived as a reader-friendly, simple and dynamic tool to make information on external cooperation in higher education more visible and accessible. Notably, this tool offers an interactive query functionality (consisting of a basic and advanced search function) that enables users to identify programmes according to several criteria (e.g. target country, type of external cooperation, type of target group, etc.). Its design furthermore offers the possibility to further develop/expand the tool in the future.  

Useful Definitions

Incoming mobility: this refers to students/teaching staff coming from third countries (outside EU/EEA) to EU/EEA countries.

Outgoing mobility: this refers to EU/EEA students/teaching staff going abroad (to non EU/EEA countries).

ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) was designed by UNESCO in the 1970s and aims to offer a set of criteria suitable for compiling statistics on education internationally.

The current version is from 1997, and a new version will be developed for 2011. The templates on programmes (see ‘Programmes’ section) provided on this website targets the following levels: 
ISCED 5: Tertiary (or higher) education – first and second cycles
Entry to these programmes requires successful completion of compulsory education or post-secondary non tertiary education. ISCED level 5 includes tertiary programmes with an academic orientation (ISCED 5A), and programmes with an occupational orientation designed for entry to the employment market (ISCED 5B). Only ISCED 5A programmes give access to doctoral programmes at ISCED level 6.
ISCED 6: Tertiary (or higher) education – third cycles
This level targets programmes that lead directly to the award of an advanced research qualification (e.g. a doctorate).

In addition to ISCED levels, the new templates also include reference to academic education (Bachelor, Master and Doctorate/ PhD level programmes) versus vocational higher education programmes.

Joint programmes with joint qualifications’ refer to programmes leading to joint degrees. By joint degrees is meant integrated study programmes jointly developed, implemented and run by two or more accredited, degree-awarding higher education institutions which result in single diplomas issued by at least two higher education institutions.

Joint programmes without joint qualifications’ refer to programmes leading to double degrees. By double degrees is meant jointly structured study curriculum, that is implemented and run by two (or more) accredited higher education institutions that results in two (or more) single diplomas that are recognised officially in the state/country where the degree-awarding institution is located.

Third countries: this term which is used throughout the website  designates countries outside the EU 27 and EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). According to EU policy initiatives in the area  of external cooperation (for further details, see DG RELEX website), these are e.g. candidate/potential candidate countries to the EU; European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries; emerging countries (e.g. Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Mexico and Argentina); industrialised countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and the USA). The basic search function of the ‘Programmes’ section refers to the term ’target countries’. This corresponds to the third country(ies) targeted by the programmes managed at national level in EU or EEA countries (i.e. ‘home countries managing programmes’).

Page Updated: 02 Dec 2010
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