Interview of the new Director of the Erasmus+ National Agency - education and training: Mrs Joana Mira Godinho

1. Mrs. Mira Godinho you are a Medicine graduate, however most of your professional career has been in International organizations. Tell us more about your experience.

My International career had mainly two components: one as leader of a large European project financed by the European Commission, during 5 years; and another as project manager and in the last years as sector manager in the World Bank, where I worked for around 20 years, the first 10 years in Europe and Central Asia, and the second decade in Latin America and Caribbean. My specialization in Public Health, knowledge and experience in project and team management, writing and speaking in various languages have contributed to the development of an international career. The participation in study programmes abroad financed by multi or bilateral organizations (UN, Fulbright, British Council) were also essential for my preparation – similarly to what today happens under the Erasmus+ programme, and that I believe to be essential for the internationalization of education, of students and of other Portuguese professionals, just as it was with me.

2. What is the contribution you consider you can bring to the Direction of the National Agency?

I believe that my International experience and of project and sector management can be useful to the development of the new Erasmus+ Programme in Portugal.  Much of what I learned during the years I worked in Brussels and in Washington DC can be applied to the management of the National Agency to improve the performance of the Erasmus+ Programme in the country. At the moment the national agency is starting to apply management by results, at the same time that we initiated an administrative simplification, including dematerialisation of processes. We hope these two aspects regarding the management of the Agency will have reflection on a performance more oriented to the beneficiaries and to the support of the implementation of their projects.  

3. What is the meaning of the Erasmus+ Programme for you?  

I think the Erasmus+ Programme is one of the main contributions of Member States do the construction of a real European Union. I consider that this programme - additionally to fostering internationalization of educational and training systems, through students and professional mobility, and the establishment of European and global partnerships – is mainly a “making” Europeans programme: people that will feel as comfortable studying, working and living in Portugal as in Finland, for example. Note that although the programme is increasing in importance, it only provides "seed funding" for the construction of the European Union through education, training, youth and sports. Most of the effort to build a Union has to continue to be done by the social organizations, by the companies, and by the governments of the member States.  

4. The Erasmus Programme is very well known and has always had a strong national participation, what do you think is the impact this Programme has had in Portugal

The National Agency data on the programme results show that student and professional mobility, and the establishment of partnerships, have significantly increased over the years. Higher education has been the main beneficiary of the programme, but the participation of school education, vocational training and adult education has also augmented, which I consider to be a very positive evolution. European Commission studies show the very positive impact, especially of the Erasmus programme for higher education, in employability of young beneficiaries. Regarding the management by results, the National Agency is paying more attention to the monitoring and evaluation and is foreseeing to realize various studies, including regarding the impact of Erasmus+ and the previous programme, of lifelong learning, have had on the Portuguese education and training sector.  

5. What do you consider to be the greatest challenges the Programme will face at national level until 2020?

The greatest challenge we have is the financing of the quality applications we receive annually. Although the National Agency manages generous funds from the Portuguese State and from the European Commission, we are only able to finance about one third of the good quality applications we receive every year. I found a good programme functioning with good results, although we are making efforts to provide a better service to all potential beneficiaries – a large market that includes all educational and training institutions in Portugal, from schools to training centres, from civil society associations to private sector companies.

6. What objectives would you like to see accomplished by 2020?

I would like that the programme attains its main objectives of contributing to internationalization and excellence of education and training in the European Union and in Portugal. The Programme can provide a very important contribution to develop pre-school education, reduce early school leaving, improve professional training, increase the number of graduates in the country and in Europe, and raise employability of young people and adults, among other objectives, and this way boost economic growth, inclusion and well-being in the European Union.