Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – The European Union, or EU, has extended its support for higher education in the Asean region until the end of 2022, helping keep running a program that allows students to get scholarships in or transfer between universities across the region.
First launched in 2015, the EU Support to Higher Education in the Asean Region (Share) program facilitates intra-mobility for students in Asean via credit transfer and scholarship schemes. The EU-funded program also seeks to bolster the harmonization of higher education across Asean.
"The extension period will support Asean higher education institutions and stakeholders to create a sustainable Asean higher education space, drawing lessons from Europe's experience in the Erasmus program and the Bologna Process," EU ambassador to Asean Igor Driesmans told an online press conference on Tuesday.
In addition to the extension, the EU will pour another 5 million euros ($6 million) into the Share program budget, besides the initial funding of 10 million euros. As many as 300 students will also benefit from the intraAsean scholarships by the end of next year.
"The EU has put human development, in particular education, at the heart of our partnership. We would like to ensure youth and women are not only included but also empowered," Igor said.
Asean's socio-cultural deputy secretary-general Kung Phoak applauded the EU's longstanding partnership to bolster Southeast Asia's higher education.
As the program opens doors to a better workforce, Share's two-year extension could pave the way towards greater recovery in the Asean region, he added.
At the conference, Kung Phoak also highlighted that Share's goal of Asean's higher education harmonization does not entail homogenizing national systems.
"The focus is on exploring synergies, as well as advising policies and strategies to enhance connectivity and comparability of Asean's higher education institutions," he said.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Share program will also engage in virtual exchanges.
"With physical mobility hampered, we are looking to hopefully reinstate physical mobility towards the end of the year, early in 2022. In the meantime, we will be exploring the possibilities of virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning," Share program team leader Darren McDermott said.
Over the past years, Share has convened 11 policy dialogues on higher education attended by policymakers, experts, and other stakeholders. The program has awarded more than 550 scholarships to Asean students to study in an Asean or European university for a semester.