"AlmaLaurea: a building block for the world of training"

A cooperation of the European countries and of the Mediterranean area aimed at development, starting from university. An interview with Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux
14 February 2011

"AlmaLaurea shows the way out of the economic crisis, a way that goes through the development of employment and mobility of resources. This way runs mainly within Europe and the Mediterranean area, the spaces of our future ": this is the opinion of Michele Gendreau-Massaloux rector and responsible for the French mission for the Union for the Mediterranean- Training, Higher Education and Research section. Speaking at the presentation of the twelfth AlmaLaurea report on graduates’ employment conditions, held at the University of Calabria on March 19th, she explained the benefits of the AlmaLaurea databank. “This is a building block of a great house”, Gendreau Massaloux said “which will be the home of students, teachers and of the workers of both Europe and of the Mediterranean area."

What do you think about the AlmaLaurea project to extend the model of the database at a European level? What kind of added value would the AlmaLaurea databank provide to the academic system and to the labour market?
“The first merit of AlmaLaurea is to be an instrument which on the one hand enables students and universities to better understand the academic system and on the other hand it enables companies and entrepreneurs to better understand the labour market. It connects the CVs of graduates and professional expectations of young people with the demand of companies and this mediation deals with both contract and wages. This mediation should not be underestimated, since to do this activity we had few elements until recently: in fact, AlmaLaurea gives us rational, identifiable and comparable reference points. For example, we can compare the number of graduates with the job offers available in the labour market. A very functional mechanism not only for Europe but for all countries of the Mediterranean area."
From this point of view, AlmaLaurea has already taken a step forward: the Grinsa project aims at implementing the databank of the graduates of Morocco.
"AlmaLaurea is a knowledge instrument but also an instrument enabling graduates and companies to look for each others, both in Europe and in the Mediterranean area. Therefore, it is successful from a social point of view: it gives both to graduates and to universities data which enable them to make comparisons from a contractual and an economic point of view between different countries. This is the objective of "L'Union pour la Méditerranée" which I represent. In that sense, I firmly trust in the AlmaLaurea project”.
"L'Union pour la Méditerranée": what is this?
"It 's an international organisation modelled on the European Union. It is aimed at intensifying the relations between the nations of the Mediterranean area. This organisation has been presented by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was at that time in office as President of the European Council, in Paris on July 13th 2008. It is a natural consequence of the Barcelona Process, which since 1995 has been pursuing the objective of intensifying the relations between the European Union, the Middle East and the African nations."
What is the idea behind the Union?
"The starting point is that there is a very deep complementarity between the European and Mediterranean countries, and it starts from demography. In the European countries there are fewer children and more elderly people for which it is necessary to pay pensions. Contrary to this, in the Southern countries of the world there are more and more young people who can in some cases counterbalance the world of the young workers of the Northern countries, who are more penalized from a demographical point of view."
Which objectives does this project pursue?
"It is a project that allows 43 countries to meet and discuss various issues, in order to create then a concrete plan of joint action. What do we ask for? Several things. From an environmental point of view, we ask to have access to drinking water for example. Or that the Mediterranean Sea and the beaches become cleaner and maybe to have fish that is not contaminated by pollution. In terms of training, we ask for a higher quality to be obtained through the promotion of common strategies. No coincidence that in April 2010 we will examine a project for which 43 ministers for research and higher education, representing 43 different countries, will sit around the same table to discuss about education, youth and future. "
What are the prospects for this project in terms of training?
"The fact that there is a project does not mean that the future is “already written”. I can’t say that in ten years things will be better. But concrete projects are another way to try to find solutions for all the peoples of the Mediterranean area. I don’t think that "L'Union pour la Méditerranée" will lead to the disappearance of conflicts between the countries because I do not believe in miracles, but I believe in projects, especially if they are carried out in the academic world. AlmaLaurea is the most obvious example.”
Are you thinking about a project that brings together universities and research centres from different countries?
"It 's a pragmatic way to take a step forward, but for this we need funds, starting from the bus for students, funds that facilitate the mobility between North and South, within the South or from South to North, a quality mobility available to everyone. This synergy is difficult to achieve. It is necessary to find funds not only in Europe but also in the Gulf countries, in the United States, in large financial institutions such as the World Bank or the European Investment Bank, i.e. in all the countries interested in the project, since there is actually interest. Obviously, I can not say that we will have a positive outcome, because there are always risks when you do something new, but I can say that many conditions have been fulfilled to enable the event that this project would be successful since the beginning. "
As representative of the 'Union pour la Méditerranée "and as a strong voice in the world of training, what do you think about the current academic system?
"We are now experiencing a special moment both in the history of universities and more generally in the history of the world. For some time universities have not been having enough economic resources, both European governments but also those of other countries around the world have many debts and therefore universities need to receive funds to offer students a quality education. Students themselves, after having reached a good level of training and having achieved the academic degree have great difficulty in finding a good job quickly, because of the economic crisis. It 's necessary to analyze the investments in each university, in order to better understand the relationship between the budgets of universities and students’ needs. We have to find complementarities. Obviously, we have not reached the goal yet, but we are starting to develop a project that will require several years. "
What differences have you found between the French educational system and the Italian one?
"Every country has its peculiarities and I think it must remain anchored to its traditions. Although with "L'Union pour la Méditerranée" we pursue a system compatibility and equivalence between different universities, each country should not lose control over its system. In Italy there is the oldest university of Europe, that is the University of Bologna. Even the French system is very old but has other features. This means that we must make sure that the intention to achieve an harmonization among the countries of Europe and of Mediterranean area do not do wrong the culture of any country, since that culture is deep rooted in every system. There are certainly many differences and I don’t think that they should be minimized. In fact, you need to know the various systems in detail, so that there will be a fluid mobility in the labour market and students may find a job that is in line with its skills, independently of the country in which they studied.”

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