The EU and ASEAN have officially launched the first major technical support for the Southeast Asia region by establishing a platform that will contribute to the harmonization of ASEAN higher education standards. The project aims to achieve mutual recognition of accreditation and promote the mobility of students.

The grant contract of the pilot project — dubbed the EU Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region (SHARE) — was recently been signed between the EU and a consortium led by the British Council with its five partners. The project will run for four years until January 2019.

According to Acting EU Delegation to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN, Colin Crooks, the SHARE program will support further development of the ASEAN Qualification Framework and Quality Assurance, as well as strengthening the ASEAN Credit Transfer System (ACTS) and ASEAN-EU Credit Transfer System (AECTS).

“The key idea is to share EU experience with ASEAN for the improvement of standards and quality of Higher Education Institutions in the ASEAN region, drawing on the experience of the Bologna process and the establishment of the European Higher Education Area [EHEA],” Crooks said during a press conference in Central Jakarta, on Wednesday.

The Bologna Process is a voluntary platform launched in 1999 by ministers of education and university leaders of 29 countries in Europe to establish common higher education guidelines for use in the EHEA.

Under the new credit transfer systems, SHARE would provide 500 scholarships to create new opportunities for international learning for ASEAN students, Crooks said.

The SHARE program’s team leader, John Law, said the consortium planned for the 500 scholarships to be distributed throughout both regional networks, with 400 allocated across ASEAN and another 100 in the EU.

However, Law told The Jakarta Post that the program had the important task of laying the foundations of the SHARE framework on the ministerial and operational levels, such as pushing for policies that would enable proper integration beyond national borders.

“We first have to work on the qualifications framework, quality assurance, the credit transfer system and the online platform,” he said.

According to him, the team would only start recruiting students and finding universities to work and network with in SHARE’s third year, with the aim of providing successful applicants “the opportunity for mobility” in 2018.

Law, who also works as the British Council’s higher education advisor in Indonesia, acknowledged the team’s surmountable task in enabling the project to function as expected, was related to regional context and cultural background that the ASEAN region has compared to the EU’s own successful model.

“There’s a complex set of issues to address, but I would entirely agree this is not EU [dictating] ASEAN to do this or that, because the context and the culture is so different that some things are simply not appropriate,” he explained.

“You need to create a balance, that’s why we are ‘SHARE-ing’ [experiences] with you but also asking you if [the program] works for your particular context.”

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