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The Scholarship Programmes for mobility and institutional cooperation under the EEA Grants and the Norway Grants mechanisms has been recently launched by SIU at a meeting in Bergen. Both EEA Grants and Norway Grants were originally established in 2004 following the accession of ten new member states to the EU. Their main purpose is to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe and to strengthen bilateral relations between the donor and beneficiary countries. According to Torbjørn Grønner, Sector Officer at the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) in Brussels which oversees the administration of the grants, developing and strengthening the educational systems in the partner countries can make it possible to reach the grants’ goals.
Slovenia is one of the countries who benefits from the grants. The Slovenian Centre for Mobility and European Educational and Training Programmes (CMEPIUS) highly appreciates the additional support provided through the Scholarship Programmes. Students from Slovenia often cannot afford to go to Norway due to insufficient funding said Marja Medved, the head of unit for tertiary sector at CMEPIUS. Ms Medved also sees big potential for the scheme to help develop stronger cooperation links with EEA countries where they are currently missing as it complements the activities supported under the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme.
A similar feeling is reciprocated by Norwegian institutions including the University of Stavanger (UiS) as they are interested in finding new cooperation partners as well as expanding already existing partnerships in the beneficiary countries. Trym N. Holbek, International Coordinator at UiS, additionally sees the scheme as a great opportunity to increase reciprocal mobility flows for students and staff.
The beneficiary countries currently include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain, while agreements with Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and the Slovak Republic are in the process of being finalised. A partner institution from Norway, Iceland, or Lichtenstein is required for the projects.The Scholarship Programmes