The education and culture programmes of the European Union in Moldova
The European Union (EU) does not only ensure high living standards for its people, but also gives them a chance to learn, discover, and understand other cultures. Being part of the bloc presupposes getting access to countless ways to develop both professionally and culturally. However, not only the EU member states can benefit from the EU mobility programmes. Some neighbouring states are also granted this access.
The Republic of Moldova, being part of the Eastern Neighbourhood Policy as well as part of the Eastern Partnership, is one of the few countries to benefit from many of the EU’s education programmes like Erasmus +, European Youth Forum, European Network of Youth Entrepreneurs (JEUNE), EaP Youth Window, EaP Plus, Creative Europe, European Voluntary Service. The Erasmus programme came into existence in 1987 and has been supporting student exchanges between European nationals ever since. Further, the programme evolved and the new Erasmus + emerged in 2014. It was no longer open exclusively to the member states citizens, but to others as well, among which were Moldova’s citizens. Following the example of this programme, more initiatives with the goal to educate were created.
Therefore several questions were raised. Some of the most common ones were: What are the results of the biggest programmes implemented for the Moldovan society? How many people benefited from them? Thus, this work analyzes the education and culture opportunities open for Moldova’s citizens but more specifically looks at what was achieved so far with the Erasmus + and Creative Europe programmes, and what impediments exist in the Republic of Moldova that withholds it from attaining better results in terms of mobility.
The framework for the development of study mobility programmes between the EU and Moldova
If anything has contributed to a European identity to this day, it was indeed the exchange of students. This brought more than the simple understanding of subjects and the development of competencies; it also has enriched European common understanding of one another.
In the EU, formal education is highly qualitative. Some European universities are placed on the highest spots in the World University Rankings according to webometrics. It is worth knowing that depending on universities organization and functioning (e.g. availability of research centres or not) and their specific host countries, the rankings may vary. The best European Union’s university is ranked at the 7th highest place (University of Oxford). In comparison, the best Moldova’s University (State University of Moldova) is ranked under the number of 3135, in the same ranking. The quality of studies in Moldova as opposed to the EU’s, greatly differs, the former being net inferior than the latter in this sense. Thus, in order to help Moldova to develop, and help create a more skilled workforce, several initiatives were engaged. The Republic of Moldova adhered to the Bologna Process in 2005, in order to facilitate the convergence of its higher education system towards more transparent, comparable and compatible systems based on three cycles: Bachelor, Master and the PhD. The quality and relevance of education in Moldova as well as in other EaP Countries, due to the established education policies and systems, pushed the modernization agenda and reforms in line with the European Higher Education Area.
Support for and empowering of the young generation, particularly in terms of developing their skills, civic engagement and fostering their employability, has a direct impact and strengthens the social fabric of the society. International exchanges enrich contacts between societies and promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. Thus the Erasmus + is considered to be the biggest EU mobility initiative so far in Moldova. It is a European Union designed programme for education, training, youth and sport for the time frame 2014-2020 which supports activities that are closely matched with the EU's priorities for cooperation policy with partner countries and regions. Since 2015, Erasmus+ has also allowed short-term mobility to Europe from other parts of the world for students, researchers, trainees and professors. This two-way mobility allows students to study in a foreign university for 3-12 months and obtain credits which are afterwards recognized at the sending institution as part of their degree. The visa-free regime established in 2014 in Moldova was of great help in the context of mobility as more people could benefit from a simplified crossing-borders procedure and could, therefore, have easier access to the programme.
In the same year, the Association Agreement was signed between the EU and Moldova, and it came with several articles that would specifically promote the development of such fields as education and culture (Article 109 , Article 125 , Article 130 and Article 132 ). Moreover, Moldova together with other Eastern Partnership Countries, committed to demonstrate and deliver tangible benefits to the daily lives of citizens by focusing on achieving 20 deliverables for 2020 in four areas including mobility area. The undertaken steps helped to push further the development of study mobility programmes. Now, new questions were raised regarding the effects of the implemented educational programmes and the issues that impede these from reaching their full potential.
The results of the Erasmus + and Creative Europe initiative implementation and the existing issues
Associate Expert at the Institute for European Policies and Reforms
According to the most recent available data, in Moldova, in the last year analyzed, namely 2017, the total number of people who benefited from the Erasmus + programme was higher than in 2016, and also the number of people who went abroad for education and culture purposes with Erasmus + in 2016 was higher than in the one prior to it namely 2015. The data was obtained from the National Erasmus + office in Moldova as well as from the European Commission’s reports and it shows a growing trend of the mobility.
Table: Data on the Erasmus + programme
Proposals received involving Moldova: 78/ 85/ 97
Projects selected involving Moldova: 35/ 59/ 65
Students and staff moving to Europe: 263/ 338/ 314
Students and staff moving to Moldova:35/ 169/ 192
Nevertheless, the situation is not as good as it seems to be. Out of the 30 institutions of Higher Education existing in Moldova (19 of which are state universities, and 11 are private), only 22 institutions so far have benefited from collaborative agreements and projects funded for mobility grants under the Erasmus + programme.
Consequently, if we are to look at the number of students enrolled in the higher education in Moldova, there being 74726 students and at the number of students and staff together who benefited from the aforementioned mobility programme in 2017, 314 students, the conclusion is that the percentage of the beneficiaries is very small. Moreover, at this stage, there is no data that would explain why the number of students and staff moving to Europe decreased from 2016 to 2017. Nevertheless, there were more students than slots open, who participated at the Erasmus +.
There are also several issues that exist regarding the participating universities and their respective students. The discrepancy of how many participating students and how many partner universities, one university has in comparison to the other, is high. For instance, Moldova State University sent its students to 19 partner universities in 2016, while in the same year, University of European Studies of Moldova sent fewer students to only one partner university.
More than that, there is a disparity in the numbers of participating students coming from different regions. Even though most universities of Moldova are concentrated in its capital city, there are other universities as well in the northern part (Balti) and southern part (Cahul; Comrat) which were able to send their students to participate at the Erasmus +. However, the most slots were taken by the Chisinau based university students. There are several explanations for this which could be considered. The percentage of students speaking English is low in Moldova, and it is even lower in the regions outside of the capital. Another reason is that, despite the efforts made by the Erasmus + office in Moldova to promote and inform about the programme in the regions, students and professors outside of Chisinau remain poorly informed about Erasmus + and the opportunities it offers.
Whereas Erasmus + focuses more on the formal education component, Creative Europe programme is designed specifically for the culture field. Moldova joined the programme in the middle of 2015, and as a result of the agreement, the state’s culture organizations can now participate in projects on cultural cooperation, cultural networks, etc. There is no substantial data available yet regarding how many people and organizations benefited so far from the programme, but according to the little qualitative data gathered, the initiative has been successful so far. Creative Europe at this phase is being improved by working to develop a mobility programme for the individual mobility of artists and culture professionals across borders, which is set to launch in 2021.
Erasmus+ , Creative Europe, and other similar smaller programmes developed by the European Union have great success in Moldova due to the existing framework which allows for these kind of initiatives to exist and further develop. Having taken into account the quantitative as well as qualitative data from the past years, the conclusion is that mobility initiatives gain popularity among the students and professionals and they have a great impact for the society as a whole. However there still are issues associated with the programmes which need to be tackled in the future for further progress and opening of this rich opportunity for all.
European Union's Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport Erasmus+ gives young people from Moldova the chance to study in the EU universities. Erasmus+ is free of charge and offers a lot of advantages like:
• studies of high quality;
• monthly scholarship that covers the costs;
• access to the latest technologies;
• international and multicultural environment;
• travelling possibilities;
• broadening horizons;
• life experience;
• better job perspectives on the return home.
Students can benefit from a short-term mobility and a long-term mobility with Erasmus+:
Short-term Mobility (Bachelor, Master, PhD)
How does it work? Based on the partnerships between Moldovan and European universities. The list with effective agreements can be found at the International Relations Departments of the Higher Educations Institutions (HEIs) where the student is registered. It is a must for the Mobility period to be integrated into the student's study program. Academic activities taken abroad will be recognized and fully equated. It is mandatory for the student to come back to Moldova, graduate and get the diploma in his/her country.
How to apply? Each inter-institutional agreement is different. The procedure, the list of necessary documents and the deadline are available at the International Relations Department. The application is online.
Who can benefit? Students enrolled in Moldovan HEIs, regardless of the study cycle: Bachelor, Master or PhD.
How long? The overseas experience can last from 3 up to 12 months (24 months for students from Medicine). The same student can benefit from multiple mobility sessions during one study cycle, as long as they don't exceed 12 months.
What is the grant amount? Between 750 and 850 Euros, depending on the costs of living and the host country, plus a unique contribution for transportation, that is calculated based on the distance between the institutions. For the new projects that will begin to be implemented in September 2018 the grant amount will increase with 50 Euros and will vary between 800 and 900 Euros.
Long term Mobility (Master, Doctorate)
Joint Master Degrees
How does it work? Operated by consortiums of Higher Education Institutions from European Union and other countries around the world. The Programme offers integrated, studies of high quality, with 60, 90 or 120 credits and joint or multiple diplomas (according to the rules of the programme, established by the consortium).
How to apply? For higher chances of being accepted, students are encouraged to apply simultaneously for maximum three different Masters Programs, out of those available. All applications will be submitted online, on the programme’s website.
Who can benefit? Young people from all around the world, possessing a Bachelor degree, are eligible. As an exception, the consortium of the Master programme can accept the file of the students who are in the process of obtaining Bachelor’s degree.
How long does it last? Courses may vary between 12 and 24 months.
What is the grant amount? The scholarship covers the tuition fees, transportation and accommodation, maintenance costs and medical insurance. The sum can reach €25 000 per year.
Joint PhD Degrees
How does it work? Operated by consortiums of Higher Education Institutions from European Union and other countries around the world. The Programme offers integrated, studies of high quality and joint or multiple diplomas (according to the rules of the program, established by the consortium).
How to apply? Access directly the website of the course you are interested in. All applications will be submitted online, on the program's website.
Who can benefit? Possessors of a Master degree.
How long does it last? Courses take up to 36 months.
What is the grant amount? The scholarship covers the tuition fees, transportation and accommodation, maintenance costs and medical insurance. The sum may vary between €60.000 and €130.000 for all the three years of PhD.
This publication is produced with the support from East Europe Foundation from financial resources offered by Sweden. The contents are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East Europe Foundation or the Swedish Government.