EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel arrived in Cyprus yesterday to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Democracy Forum in Cyprus to mark the European Year of Youth.
The forum, taking place on Friday at the Filoxenia Conference Center, will focus on the challenges that democracy is currently facing around the world.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNA, Commissioner Gabriel referred to the Erasmus+ program, saying that many Cypriots have taken advantage of the funding provided by the EU to study outside their home country, giving them a chance to immerse themselves in different cultures.
The Commissioner called on Cypriots to continue taking advantage of programs provided under Erasmus and to travel to more countries beyond Greece, noting that some of the programs cover neighboring Middle Eastern countries.
“Cyprus has taken advantage of funding opportunities in higher education offered by the EU’s flagship program, Erasmus+, both for the mobility of individuals and for collaborative activities, Commissioner Gabriel said when called to assess the country’s engagement. However, she added, Cyprus could do better.
One area where there could be an improvement, Gabriel explained, is student mobility.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic and until 11 March 2020, 3,600 higher education students had carried out an educational activity abroad under the program” the Commissioner noted, and added that from 2014 to 2020, “more than 4,710 higher education students studied or completed a traineeship in Cyprus – understandable since Cyprus is a beautiful country and has good universities”.
Noting that “about half of the Cypriot students, 2,340 to be exact, who go on a mobility project go to Greece”, which she said is understandable because of the shared language which makes traveling easy, Gabriel pointed out that “there are so many other interesting destinations in the EU” especially since the Erasmus scheme opened up internationally last year.
“This means that students and higher education staff of any Cypriot higher education institution could potentially go to a neighboring Near East country to study, train or teach,” the Commissioner said.
Gabriel said that she is particularly happy to see a high number of Erasmus+ cooperation partnership projects in Cyprus, since there are now 164 in total, along with the participation of two Cypriot universities in the European Universities Initiative.
The Commissioner mentioned that from 2019, the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) alliance is receiving support from Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, along with the Cyprus University of Technology, allowing for the creation of “inter-university ‘campuses’”.
“These are the European universities of the future, where students, staff and researchers can enjoy seamless mobility, be it physical, virtual or blended,” she said.
During her visit, the Commissioner will meet with Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Minister Prodromos Prodromou and will pay a visit to Innovation Center. She will also exchange views with various innovation entities which are engaged in cultural and creative media sectors.