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Higher education — cooperation between EU and non-EU countries


Strengthening cooperation in higher education with non-EU countries — COM(2001) 385 final



It sets out a strategy and identifies rules to strengthen cooperation between EU and non-EU countries in the field of higher education.

It aims to:

  • advance the EU as a centre of learning;
  • support partner countries outside the EU in their modernisation efforts;
  • promote common values and understanding between cultures;
  • support EU countries and their higher education institutions in their internationalisation efforts; and
  • improve the quality of services and human resources through mutual learning and exchanges of good practice.


  • The strategy set out in this communication hopes to make the most of experience gained from programmes set up in the EU, such as the Erasmus+ programme, which, among other things, aims to increase the international dimension of education and training by means of partnerships between higher education institutions in EU and non-EU countries.
  • The strategy calls for multilateral networks and partnerships involving countries that have higher education institutions similar to those in the EU so that the universities concerned can agree on issues such as:
    • the academic content of courses to be taught to exchange students;
    • arrangements for the care of exchange students whilst they are abroad; or
    • arrangements for recognition of work done by the home and host universities, using the model of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System*.
  • The strategy emphasises that, for cooperation between EU and non-EU countries in terms of higher education to be truly effective, there must be more than just the exchange of students. Staff exchanges and joint programmes are also needed.
  • In order to promote the EU as a centre of excellence in learning around the world, the strategy suggests increasing capacity for European studies in other countries by extending the network of EU studies centres and Jean Monnet chairs (positions for professors who specialise in European integration around the world).
  • The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, which are funded by Horizon 2020, complement this strategy by promoting the transnational mobility of researchers and PhD students.


European universities have a good track record of cooperating internationally, having facilitated the development of international curricula and joint degrees, funded international research and innovation projects and supported the exchange of students, staff and knowledge. This cooperation not only enhances the quality of education and training, it also boosts innovation and job creation through mobility, whilst offering opportunities for staff and students to broaden their horizons.


*European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System: an academic credit system designed to make it easier for students to move between different countries. It has been adopted by most of the countries in the European higher education area and by many countries beyond.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on strengthening cooperation with third countries in the field of higher education (COM(2001) 385 final, 18.7.2001)

last update 26.10.2015