Added value

Uniqueness

The proposed MER MSc is unique because, unlike other MSc programmes, it brings together marine environment and resources as the basis for its academic foundations. Most existing European programmes provided elsewhere within the partnership and within the region are devoted to only one of these aspects.

Innovative conceptual framework

The MER MSc's innovative conceptual framework is a major added value. The academic programme has been designed to confer students onto a translational science approach, not elsewhere available in Europe, by means of the course programme and the mobility schedule. Accordingly, all the students receive advanced multidisciplinary courses (oceanography, biology, chemistry, geology, management) and transversal contents (from cellular and molecular biology, to large-scale processes or management).

Competitiveness

The MER MSc enhances graduates' competitiveness. The module structure of the taught programme and its flexibility provides the student with the opportunity to develop his/her own curriculum; this can range between the environment or resources, to any combination between them, in marine science. As such, the MER MSc becomes very attractive for new marine researchers within an European context. Specialisation in particular areas of marine science is also foreseen. There are several pathways through the MSc MER programme, depending on whether a student wishes to maintain multidisciplinarity, or looks towards specialisation or simplicity. Two pathways are available, designed to provide in-depth knowledge in individual marine disciplines; however, selecting one of these is not a requirement.

European visibility

The MER MSc contributes to European visibility and cooperation with non-European institutions. Historically, a large part of the MER taught programme has been centred upon the Bay of Biscay. This geographical area is an invaluable asset, since crucial scientific issues (integrated coastal zone management, assessment of marine ecosystem health, protection and recovery of marine and estuary environments, operational oceanography systems, competitive and responsible fisheries management, fishing technology) can be investigated (as a field research model system). This region is under the OSPAR agreement, related to MEDPOL-UNEP activities; it provides the students following the MER courses with an integrated, multidisciplinary perspective of marine environmental problems, relevant within the European context. An opportunity is available to European and Third-Country students to gain knowledge about an extensive and socio-economically relevant marine area, within Europe.

Moreover, MER MSc provides the students with the opportunity to compare with other marine areas both in Europe and overseas, during the research phase of the programme (MSc Thesis). Considerable effort has been undertaken to involve European Partners with experience in the North and Baltic Seas (NIVA, IFREMER) and the Mediterranean Sea (UCA-Stareso-UoAg axis), as well as in other oceanic regions. During their independent research phase, MER MSc students are encouraged to apply, to any other region in the world, the integrated perspective acquired in the Bay of Biscay. This is extremely interesting for potential collaboration, in teaching and research, between European and non-European institutions.

Excellence and good practices

The MER MSc is a pioneer in university excellence and good practices, following guidelines of the Bologna process and accompanying actions. Student-centred learning has been pursued, since the very beginning. Each student is offered an individually-tailored formation programme, including coursework, research and mobility-schedule; this is agreed before registration and is recognised in the Student Agreement. The high staff-student ratios (>5:1) and the excellence of the laboratory facilities, instrumentation, and research-active staff (see Teaching Staff and Partnership) are favourable conditions for this purpose (www.eua.be).

Excellence has been recognised by Spanish and French authorities. The MER MSc is a recipient of the Quality Award by the Spanish Ministry (2008-2012); it has been recognized as an Excellent French-Spanish MSc, by both French and Spanish Ministries (2008-2010). Recently, we have obtained the Mediterranean Office for Youth (MOY) label (2012-present). Further, it has been top MSc (1/~70) in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country every year, since its commencement in 2006-2007 (5 yr report).

Networking

The MER MSc places emphasis upon ensuring the added value recognised in Joint Masters Programmes. Networking promotes strong international research contacts.

The research carried out emphasises complementarities in programme teaching, fostering interaction between teaching and research in the field of marine environment and resources.

Both students and staff benefit from exposure to different academic environments and traditions, different social environments (language learning, culture) and to developing international research/work experience (important for their CV development). Benefits from enhanced implementation of all the Bologna reforms, comparable degree structures, degree recognition, the European dimension of QA, and the use of ECTS and the Diploma Supplement are also evident.

MER MSc students are trained in international environment, on transnational issues. European citizenship and cultural understanding are developed.

MER MSc is aimed to retain Europe's best students, attract overseas students, and encourage cooperation with non-European institutions.

 

The compulsory RiMER course constitutes an excellent example of the uniqueness, attractiveness, innovation, competitiveness, visibility, cooperation with non-European universities and good practices that characterize the MER framework. Annually, in an emblematic venue (Auditorium of the San Sebastian Aquarium, Basque Country) MER MSc students meet, for 10 days, with: >30 lecturers; MER MSc students from the previous cohort and those MER graduates carrying out their PhD; academic and research staff from Partners and Associated Partners; and invited lecturers from Europe and overseas.

The teaching schedule is innovative and is based upon 4-5 lectures per day, with a Round-table; here, the students ask questions and discuss with the day's staff panel, for 1-2 hours.

The topics are: integrated coastal zone management; global climate crisis; marine ecosystem health; conservation of biodiversity; and fisheries. Lectures are combined with practicals, tutorials, workshops and “cinephorum” sessions.

Social and cultural integration is also pursued: all the students stay in the same residence, whilst a course dinner and cultural activities for students/staff are organised.

Many students have been shown to establish contacts for their future career, during this venue.

This spirit guides the programme and every action and activity of the MER MSc.