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ACA contributes to EU policy exchanges on lessons learnt from COVID-19 

In November, the ACA Secretariat staff attended several EU policy events focused on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education and contributed to the discussions with the related evidence shared by ACA members.  

The Secretariat presented the latest information on the impact of the pandemic on the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) and other mobility programmes at a dedicated stakeholder meeting organised by the European Commission 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the ACA members have regularly exchanged information on the effects of the pandemic and the related institutional responses through a dedicated working group facilitated by the SecretariatConsidering the large-scale disruptions to physical mobility in 2020, the national agencies had to significantly adapt their funding rules and procedures to still enable some mobility experience in the challenging context. For example, the agencies offered extensions of application deadlines and periods of staysupported hybrid forms of mobilityprovided financial support to socioeconomically disadvantaged mobile students hit by the crisis, and launched ad hoc schemes to fund ‘emergency’ type of collaboration. 

On the occasion of the MSCA stakeholder meeting, ACA also presented some recommendations to the European Commission on how to make mobility funding schemes more flexible for beneficiaries and host institutions in view of the lessons learnt from the pandemic.  

  • As many mobile academics prefer to postpone their mobility experiences to spring 2021 or even laterstrong coordination between the national and European funders at all levels is key to the smooth relaunch, promotion and implementation of the mobility programmes in the post-COVID phase.  
  • In view of the so far limited interest in virtual mobility among students and particularly staff, special attention has to be paid to the quality of technology enhanced mobility, which could be fostered through institutional and individual capacity-building, including staff training and infrastructural upgrades.  
  • In this context, it would be equally important to develop new ways of promoting and incentivising hybrid mobility experience among various groups of mobile academics and institutions. The successful uptake of the new mobility formats requires a closer alignment of EU and national funding approaches. 

The ACA Secretariat also engaged in an online debate on education in a post-COVID-19 Europe with European Commissioner for Research, Innovation, Education, Culture & Youth, Mariya Gabriel, organised by the European Policy Centre and the Egmont Institute on 17 November. ACA specifically raised the issue related to the assessment of the immediate and longer term impact of the pandemic on student and staff mobility in Europe. The ACA Secretariat and its members will continue to collect the evidence on such impact in 2021 through dedicated thematic peer group meetings and feed the key lessons learnt for international higher education into EU and national policy making