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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
EU Funds
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Program for Rural Areas
September 30, 2009   
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The European Union has allocated 400,000 euros for a pilot program that seeks to launch a "European Master's Program for Rural Animators" (EMRA). Some of the funds under the program will go to the Faculty of Sociology of Rural Areas at the Institute of Sociology of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toru˝, northern Poland.

The EMRA program includes the preparation of a syllabus with more than 10 specialist courses and a textbook, an online platform for e-learning, and work on certification and recognition of degrees at universities abroad. The project will start in October this year and end in November 2011. The project's coordinators in Poland are Prof. Andrzej Kaleta and Wojciech KnieŠ, Ph.D.

"These days the EU is putting a lot of emphasis on natural sciences, engineering and biotechnology," said KnieŠ. "Our program involves the humanities, but the European Commission has supported our idea because specialists in rural development will be much sought after in the coming years. They will primarily work for nongovernmental organizations, local governments and culture centers."

Experts trained under the program will handle EU projects related to rural development, including investment in community-building activities. Such people are in short supply in Poland and elsewhere in Europe today. Statistics show that few sociologists have a good understanding of the changes taking place in rural areas.

"These days, important things in the countryside are happening thanks to enthusiasts, but we believe that professionals are needed for that," said KnieŠ. "Passionate, energetic people suffice in the beginning but then everything gets caught up in red tape, becomes over-complicated and taking caring of it all really takes specialist education."

Polls show that the work of rural activists is never appreciated enough because they do not have a formal education in this field, KnieŠ says.

Sociologists and experts in rural development will obtain international graduation certificates that will be valid across Europe. The certificates will be issued by the Copernicus University, but they will also be recognized by other universities.

The project is being carried out by institutions of higher education across Europe, including the Regional Studies Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Gyor, the Euracademy European Association in Athens, the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of the Mediterranean University in Chania, and the universities in Helsinki, Valencia, Porto, Rostock and Cluj-Napoca.

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