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Tempus IV (2007-2013): Overview of the Programme


TEMPUS is the European Union’s programme which supports the modernisation of higher education in the EU's surrounding area. Tempus promotes institutional cooperation that involves the European Union and Partner Countries and focuses on the reform and modernisation of higher education systems in the Partner Countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean region.

It also aims to promote voluntary convergence of the higher education systems in the Partner Countries with EU developments in the field of higher education. With regards to the Western Balkans, Tempus contributes to preparing the candidate and potential candidate countries for a participation in the integrated Life Long Learning Programme.

In addition to promoting cooperation between institutions, Tempus also promotes a people-to-people approach.Tempus provides support to consortia of institutions composed mainly of universities or university associations. Non-academic partners can also be part of a consortium.

The Tempus programme is implemented in close coordination with the Erasmus Mundus programme which provides scholarships to third country students allowing them to participate in top-level Master courses and Doctorate programmes outside the EU.


The Commission considers higher education as an important priority for its cooperation activities with the neighbouring countries and the countries within its wider vicinity. The Tempus programme, which is the longest-standing EU programme in this sector and which has a strong focus on cooperation between higher education institutions, has entered a new phase running from 2007 to 2013. Since its inception in 1990, university cooperation under the Tempus programme has contributed successfully to institution building in higher education in the Partner Countries and to sustainable university partnerships, as well as to enhancing mutual understanding between the academic worlds of the European Union and the Partner Countries.

Particularly in the Partner Countries, higher education institutions are currently facing major challenges linked to (i) dramatic demographic changes (number of people potentially having access to higher education, age structure, migration flows), (ii) increasing global competition, leading to a considerable shift in the distribution of the economic power at  world level, (iii) changes in science and technology but notably the growing importance of organisational and societal innovation rather than purely technological innovation and last but not least (iv) challenges of societies in transition (social cohesion, human rights, etc.).

Higher education institutions are therefore key players in the successful transition to a knowledge-based economy and society and they provide the training for a new generation of leaders. They are the pools of expertise and centres for the development of human resources. Higher education institutions are also important factors in growth and competitiveness, and play a crucial role in the reform agenda of both EU Member States and the Tempus Partner Countries.

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The overall objective of Tempus is to contribute to the creation of an area of cooperation in the field of higher education between the European Union and the Tempus Partner Countries.

The specific objectives of Tempus are as follows:

  • To promote the reform and modernisation of higher education in the Partner Countries;
  • To enhance the quality and relevance of higher education to the world of work and society in the Partner Countries;
  • To increase the capacity of higher education institutions in the Partner Countries and the EU, in particular their capacity to cooperate internationally and to continually modernise;
  • To assist them in opening up to the world of work and the society at large in order to:
    • overcome inter-country fragmentation in the area of higher education and inter-institutional fragmentation in the countries themselves;
    • enhance inter-disciplinary thinking and working within and between faculties and universitiesarity and trans-disciplinarity between university faculties;
    • enhance the employability of university graduates;
    • make the European Higher Education Area more visible and attractive to the world;
  • To foster the reciprocal development of human resources;
  • To enhance mutual understanding between the peoples and cultures of the EU and the Partner Countries.

Priority themes under Tempus are defined around the main components of the EU's higher education modernisation agenda and are therefore structured in the following three building blocks:

  • Curricular Reform
    Modernisation of curricula in academic disciplines identified as priorities by the Partner Countries, using the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), the three cycle system and the recognition of degrees

  • Governance Reform
    • University management and services for students
    • Introduction of quality assurance
    • Institutional and financial autonomy and accountability
    • Equal and transparent access to higher education
    • Development of international relations
  • Higher Education and Society
    • Training of non-university teachers
    • Development of partnerships with enterprises
    • Knowledge triangle education-research-innovation
    • Training courses for public services (ministries, regional/local authorities)
    •  Development of lifelong learning in society at large
    • Qualifications frameworks

National and regional priorities are defined based on these themes.

Programme Management

The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) is responsible for the management / implementation of all Tempus Actions and acts under powers delegated by the European Commission.

The formal responsibility for supervising the activities of the Tempus Programme lies with two departments of the European Commission, the EuropeAid Development and Cooperation Office (DEVCO) and the Directorate-General for Enlargement (ELARG), since both allocate funds directly to the Executive Agency to manage the Programme. In line with their mandate, the European External Action Service (EEAS) contributes to the strategic orientations of the Programme and the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (EAC) brings in its sectoral expertise and facilitates linkages with the EU's internal higher education reform policies. These two Commission Departments are therefore also associated with the implementation of the Tempus Programme.

Sources of Funding

The programme is funded on an annual basis by the following financial instruments:

  • Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance - IPA (for proposals involving Tempus Partner Countries in the Western Balkans). The IPA is the European Union's financial instrument for the pre-accession process. Assistance is provided on the basis of the European Partnerships of the potential candidate countries and the Accession Partnerships of the candidate countries, namely the Western Balkans and Turkey. The IPA is a flexible instrument and provides assistance which is linked to the progress made by the beneficiary countries and their needs, as shown in the Commission's evaluations and annual strategy papers.

  • European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument - ENPI (for proposals involving Tempus Partner Countries in the Southern and Eastern EU neighbouring area). The ENPI provides financial support for the European Neighbourhood Policy and ENP countries plus Russia. The main objective of the ENP is the mutual interest of the EU and its neighbours in promoting reform, the rule of law, stable democracies and prosperity – prosperity, security and stability - throughout the neighbourhood of the enlarged European Union. The ENPI is a “policy driven” instrument that operates in the framework of the existing bilateral agreements between the European Union and the neighbouring countries.

  • Development Cooperation Instrument (for proposals involving Tempus Partner Countries in Central Asia). Under this instrument, the European Union finances measures aimed at supporting geographic cooperation with the developing countries included in the list of aid recipients of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD/DAC). Its aim is to improve development cooperation whose objectives are poverty reduction, sustainable economic and social development and the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries into the world economy.


Last update: 12/12/2013  Print | Top of page