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The Central European Exchange Program for University Studies (CEEPUS), initiated by Austria in 1995, entered its third stage of existence this month. The agreement to continue the programme, under the name of CEEPUS III, had already been signed by the ministers of countries participating in the programme last year, in Montenegro. Nonetheless, CEEPUS III officially started only on 1 May this year, and will run for a period of seven years. The programme supports student and staff mobility and the creation of networks and joint/double degrees in the Central and Eastern European region. Thus far about 30 000 students and university staff have benefited from this mobility and scholarship scheme. The number of participating countries also increased since the start of the programme, from six in 1995 to 15 at present, with the most recent accession being that of the Republic of Moldova.
The programme is based on a light management structure. The highest decision-making body is the Joint Committee of ministers, which meets once a year to settle all strategic matters. For its part, the Central CEEPUS Office, located in Vienna, is in charge of all coordination, evaluation, promotion and programme development activities. Furthermore, each of the 15 participating countries has a National CEEPUS Office in charge of national-level implementation. Interestingly, while the programme offers comprehensive scholarships (covering living expenses, accommodation, medical insurance and laboratory experiments), there is no transfer of funds within CEEPUS. Instead, it operates on the premise of a common ‘currency’ – ‘one (1) scholarship month’ – with each country paying for the incoming students and teachers only and adhering to a rule of supplying a minimum of 100 scholarship months per year.
CEEPUS III supports mobility of students and academic staff, as well as language training and field trips. In addition, one important component of the programme – the possibility to establish university networks between at least three institutions based in at least two different CEEPUS countries – is maintained. Student and staff mobility can take place in the framework of these cooperation agreements or it can be self-organised. A particular focus of the third round of the programme is doctoral level mobility, in line with the objective of the programme to bridge the gap between the European Higher Education and Research Areas.
The programme is organised around several application rounds. More information on the application process can be found on the CEEPUS website.