Home / EU-World / Integrating double degree curricula into TEMPUS and ERASMUS-MUNDUS programs for the mutual benefit of partner institutions, by Jean-Paul Guichard*

Integrating double degree curricula into TEMPUS and ERASMUS-MUNDUS programs for the mutual benefit of partner institutions, by Jean-Paul Guichard*

Careful thought on the finality of European programmes intended for the university level is a must. These programmes present a major flaw, essentially being one-way, but one which can be surmounted, as the University of Nice has proven with its considerable experience in teaching double degree courses of study.

1) « One-way programmes »

On first approximation, it could be said that the TEMPUS or ERASMUS-MUNDUS programmes (at least, for the latter, insofar as mobility is concerned) are one-way “charitable” programmes. With European Union credits, European Union countries “help” their counterparts in countries situated in the EU’s environment. Questions immediately spring to mind: of what use is that assistance for the individuals or the institutions that are its “beneficiaries”? What good does that do for European universities? What purpose could it possibly serve?

a) For universities in «partner» countries

The TEMPUS programmes have the advantage that they must explicitly serve a purpose for the universities in the partner countries; nonetheless, it is regrettable that they deliberately ignore the research activity of the universities in question.

In contrast, the finality of the Erasmus-Mundus mobility programs is not so clear. On the doctoral or post-doctoral level, mobility can concern young university-level instructors, affording the latter highly useful access to the world; not only do the individuals find this worth their while, but so do the institutions to which they are attached.

All the same, the interest of grants on the «Master’s» level and, above all, on the licence or bachelor’s level, raises a few questions; what guaranties do we have that these fellowships can prove useful to the universities granting them? None!

Therein lies a risk of spreading the “manna” too thinly, of being inefficient. Money is given to individuals: it is a very good deal for them; but beyond these individuals, what do their universities gain from the experience? What overall project can such mobility serve?

b) For the French universities

A great deal is said about the «strategy of third countries», as well as of «Europe’s policy»: but how does that get articulated with those institutions which, in the European Union, are the vectors of university cooperation, i.e., the universities themselves?

Since 1994, I have directed many TEMPUS projects and hence can bear witness to the fact that these programmes require a great deal of time and energy for results that are often disappointing for the «European Union» universities. In addition, teachers and researchers scarcely draw any advantage from them: indeed, «international relations» has no effect on their careers.

So that European projects are truly worth spending time on them, it is necessary that they can also serve the interests of the « EU » universities; in a certain manner, European programs must be exploited in such fashion that the cooperation not be one way, but on the contrary, two-way.

2) The experience of the University of Nice: the development of double-degree programmes

a) The origine

Many TEMPUS programmes have been directed by the University of Nice since 1994, notably thanks to an instrument of administrative and organisational logistics created expressly for this purpose, the Centre for Cooperation with the Former East Bloc Countries (CPE in French). Of the first programmes carried out, in particular with the Ukraine and Azerbaijan, little benefit is left for the University of Nice, save those «results» not really intended: young people staying on permanently in France, and who sometimes even become tenured lecturers in various universities! These results, occasionally disappointing after the fact, were the direct consequence of the fact that TEMPUS had been conceived in a unilateral manner. The double- degree venture arose from this “void” in the European projects.

b) The double-degree programmes

In question are the economics curricula offered at the universities of Kosice, Belgrade, Novi-Sad, Sarajevo, Podgorica, Chisinau, Hanoi, Casablanca, Moscow, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, and Ulan-Ude; in 2010, they should be extended to Uzhorod, Sinferopol, Nijni-Novgorod … and Nice! [1]

The objective of these curricula is to allow students from a partner university to earn a double degree, both from their home institution and from the University of Nice, without having to leave their home campuses, in exchange for a relatively moderate cost (400€/year). The means serving this objective are seven in number:

1) The licence degree in economics is earned over four years and, during the first two years, includes acquiring a good level of competency in French.

2) English is compulsory: French is therefore not a substitute for English.

3) There is dual university enrolment.

4) Students must pass examinations at the University of Nice in the «core» subjects; these tests are administered on the premises of the partner institution, are in French, are organised by the University of Nice, and cover 90 credits out of a total of 180.

5) 90 credits from the partner university are «validated» by the University of Nice as electives.

6) The examinations for the University of Nice are prepared for by «tutorials» given in French, according to the methods used at the University of Nice and with the aid of the pedagogical documents utilised in Nice, employed by French-speaking instructors at the partner universities (80 to 100 hours of «tutorials» per year of studies integrated into the normal curriculum).

7) In each case, it is imperative to put together a team of local French-speaking instructors; this team constitutes the basis of the cooperation.

All of these dispositions together are continued at the Master’s level. In some cases (Irkutsk, Moscow, Kosice), the first semester of the second year of the Master’s degree must be completed at Nice, in other cases (Belgrade), that is not necessary.

The preceding leads to:

  Co-directed theses, notable allowing for enlarging the teams of French-speaking instructors.

  The organisation of scientific events held in common (for example, the economic conference co-organised at Moscow November 27 2007 by the University of Friendship among Russian Peoples and the University of Nice).

  Research programs (for example «Pavl Savic» with Serbia).

  Publications (cf. in 2010, the project to launch a new international economics review, «Mirovaïa ekonomika/économie mondiale» to be published in two languages, Russian and French).

c) Using European programmes for the double-degree curricula

Consequently, these programmes can be very useful for setting up or developing curricula. First of all, TEMPUS projects can have the objective of setting up such a curriculum; they are closely bound to training teams of French-speaking instructors who are indispensible; several projects of this kind have already been carried out in Serbia in order to set up double-degree economic curricula in Belgrade, then in Novi-Sad. In the individual case, they were preceded by decisive assistance from the French Embassy: a four-year “investment” in a Serbian student (a second-year Master’s grant followed by a three-year fellowship for a co-directed thesis) who has become a university instructor (at Novi-Sad) and from now on who will lead cooperation between the University of Nice and the Serbian universities.

The Erasmus-Mundus programmes, of the «Basileus» type (Balkans) or «Averroes» (Mediterranean) type, which are mobility programmes also allowing for the constitution of teams on the basis of a double-degree curriculum; provided, however, that young instructors («junior» staff or «post-doctoral» students) or advanced-level students headed for a university career (Master’s programs) in the discipline targeted by the double degree; and finally, also provided that the mobility directly concerns both of the universities partner to this double-degree programme; in the final analysis, that adds up to a lot of conditions…

Be that as it may, taking into account current cooperation agreements between the University of Nice and the Balkan universities; the “Basileus” programme turns out to be highly useful.

3) A few remarks concerning linguistic questions

In the framework of Erasmus-Mundus, we receive candidacies from students enrolled in universities with whom Nice has no relations at all; these candidacies occasionally astound us in that they testify to the total ignorance of the conditions imposed by the establishment the candidates wish to enter: e.g., some would like to do studies in architecture whereas in France, these studies are not pursued at university, while others hope to study in English, being completely unaware that in France, university teaching is still carried out…in French.

Admittedly, some establishments of higher education in France propose full courses of study in English, notably in the field of business management; these courses, generally for a price, can occasionally give rise to the distribution of grants, from the European Union or indeed even from the French government. I would like to share my astonishment and hostility to this kind of financial aid: such awards encourage abandoning languages other than English in higher education, languages that precisely constitute the cultural richness of Europe.

The above should not be construed as saying that in France and for French students, it does make sense to develop full English-language curricula; indeed, it does. On the other hand, it makes no sense at all that these courses of study should be open to foreign fellowship holders (whether in France or in the E.U.). If these foreign students come to French universities, the least they could do would be to study in French; if they want to study in English, then let them go to England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland! It tends to be forgotten, notably insofar as student mobility is concerned, that beyond the degrees earned, there is something even more important: the different cultures! In brief, foreign students who come to study in France ought to discover French culture, which necessarily implies speaking French.

This ought to be the general rule in Europe. To cite an example, one of my former students who today holds a post as a tenured lecturer of economics at the University of Versailles-Saint Quentin did part of his doctoral thesis at Kosice (Slovakia); there, he learned the Slovakian language and so was able to become one of the bases for cooperation that we developed with the technical university of Kosice… Here we have an exemplary case for the civil servants who work in our Ministries to ponder over; what is valid for a small country like Slovakia should also be so for France. We must be mindful that scholarship programmes to study in France financed by French taxpayers, be they French or European grants that are in question, can serve to enhance the development of the French-speaking world.


[1] At the beginning of the new academic year 2010-2011, a programme of studies in economics granting a double degree (licence and «bacalavr») is to be set up at the University of Nice in partnership with the University of Friendship among Russian Peoples in Moscow. The licence programme is spread over four years and includes acquiring competency in Russian in the first two years.

* Jean-Paul GUICHARD, ’Jean Monnet’ European Chair, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis

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