Interviews with the Directors for three different Joint Programmmes


The Master of Automotive Engineering, EMAE, started already in 2005 as an Erasmus Mundus-programme and was initiated by Professor Gabriela Achetnová at CTU in Prague

What is the nature and niche of the programme

We wanted to develop a programme that would provide a broad competence in automotive engineering combined with intercultural and language competencies. We saw a great demand for that combination of skills. The students should during the first year all learn the basics you are supposed to be familiar with as engineer in the area, and then continue with a specialization within the area of their interest. The partners contribute with specializations where they are particularly strong and that complement each other. This way we can offer a wider option of specializations than if we all ran our own programs individually.

We wanted studies in countries with different languages, and the students should be able to take intensive language courses in the first year (at CTU) to prepare for studies in the language used in the host institution for their specialization. French is used in Bretagne, German in Chemnitz, Indonesian or English at IIT Bandung, and English is used in Prague and Nijmegen. Initially all students begun the studies in CTU Prague but that has now changed and there are a larger number of study tracks.

We also aimed to choose partners in regions with strong industry in automotive engineering.
We had mainly the automotive industry in mind as the working market. Finally, the fact that the students would get two master degrees in two countries would help them in their career.

We get students from everywhere, both from partner universities and other universities in Europe as well as from outside of Europe. About half the number of admitted students are from within Europe and half from outside.

Applicants need to have a bachelor in engineering, preferably in mechanical-, transport- or electrical engineering.

General layout of the programme

The first three semesters consist of courses, followed by the fourth semester devoted to the final thesis. A summer internship is also obligatory.

The students start in one of four member institutions and then continue to the institution of choice for the second year. The students choose one out of eight specializations. All students should study in two different countries.
The institution of the second year is responsible for the thesis. The defense is done in that university even if the internship is done somewhere else in the world. 

List of specializations:

Advanced Powertrains – CTU, Prague

Design of Vehicles. and Modellisation and Computation – ENSTA, Bretagne

Vehicle Dynamics and Control – HAN Nijmegen

Fuel Cell Drives and Hybrid Motors – TU Chemnitz

Internal Combustion Engines, Powertrains, and Engines and Fuels – IFP School, Paris

What is the working market like

Most of our alumni have at least started out their careers in the automotive industry, mostly in development or production, but of course they also spread to other areas.

The students can absolutely pursue a PhD but mostly they want to work in industry.

The employability for the students is seen as very strong.

How are companies involved

Involvement of companies in the programme is seen as positive even if the cultural traditions largely survive. This means for example that the French partners have a strong involvement of people from industry in the teaching, but less so in for example Germany. Currently one topic in CTU, automation in production, is taught mainly by an industrial partner. Also field visits is generally incorporated in many courses.

Most final theses are done in collaboration with companies and most often in research and development units.

Prof. Achtenová explains that “It is seen as a learning experience to search for internships and thesis projects. We sometimes offer suggestions but in most cases the student should find it on his own. The internship should best be linked to the final thesis.”

What are the main challenges financially and administratively

We do not have any funding as Erasmus Mundus and so cannot offer scholarships which is a challenge. We can offer scholarships for a few cum laude-students. That is the only funding. We request scholarships only for students coming from outside. Several members have some subsidies from governmental sources.

Tuition fee to the consortium is currently EUR12,000 divided into 7,000 for first year and 5,000 for second year for non-European students. The EU-students pay EUR 2,000 per year. The German partners cannot charge fees but the others have those fees. The German partner is very attractive because of this but since they teach only in German that acts as a threshold. Level B2 is required for the German language.

The students get diplomas from the two universities where they have been studying meaning it is a double degree programme. They also get two transcripts. The diplomas mention that the studies were carried out as a collaboration between “university X and university Y”.

“We have been running the programme for 15 years now so we have a lot of experience to make it work. We have one meeting of all involved universities per year. The majority of students in first year are in Prague. So the meeting is often in Prague in the Autumn, so that the partners can meet to inform the students. In Czech Republic all students when they are finishing the diploma need not only all compulsory credits and the thesis, but they also need having passed an oral exam that proves the understanding and maturity of the engineering area and logic reasoning. Therefore we in CUT need visit the partner unis to attend the defenses and also perform this state exam.”, Prof. Achtenová adds.

Final Advice

“It is nice to have great names in the consortium”, says Prof. Achtenová, “ that is universities that are very well known internationally, but more important in order to have something running well in the long run is to have motivated people involved in the programme. The responsibility of the people is what is most important for a good functioning programme. From this point of view we have been lucky to have good partners around Europe in this programme. Most of them have been involved for a long time, and otherwise they have been replaced with interested people.”

EMAE consortium

Czech Technical University, Prague

ENSTA Bretagne

Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen

IFP School, Paris

Institut Teknologi, Bandung

Technical University of Chemnitz


The interview with Professor Gabriela Achtenová took place on June 10th, 2019.
Achtenová is full professor at CTU in Prague and affiliated
with the Vehicle Centre of Sustainable Mobility and is currently also
CTU vice-president for education.


The Master of Space Science was initiated by Dr. Victoria Barabash at Luleå Technical University in Sweden

What is the nature and niche of the programme

The idea is to gather students with different backgrounds in engineering and science with an interest in space. We do not think in terms of research oriented or industry oriented but instead we aim to educate individuals for their futures. Meaning that they should not only learned certain topics but be further strengthened in how to develop a lifelong learning process. They can choose to do research, or work in industry, or become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is now a mandatory subject.  

The space and atmosphere is a wide research subject that contains many different niches in itself.

Often students from outside the EU have studied physics and mechanics while most EU-students have studied space engineering.

General layout of the programme

The programme started in 2005. This is now the fourth incarnation of the programme.

All students study the first year of the programme to get a common knowledge base. The studies then are located in the Space Campus in Kiruna in northern Sweden where there is a lot of space research and organizations related to the area. The students choose courses to cover “blind spots” after their bachelor studies. For the second year the students spread out among the four partner universities.

List of specializations:

  • Dynamics and Control of Systems and Structures – Cranfield University
  • Space Automation and Control – Czech Technical University in Prague
  • Space Technique and Instrumentation; or Astrophysics, Space Science and Planetology – Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier
  • Atmospheric and Space Science; or Space Technology and Instrumentation – Luleå University of Technology

LTH is responsible for the admissions process, using the Swedish national web based system, and administrates the tuition fees and transfers to the members.

English language is used in all institutions except that some is taught in French in Université Paul Sabatier.

What is the working market like

Today many of the new graduates are employed by small and medium sized companies. Some are start-ups with only a few persons employed. Until a few years ago, the major actors in the area were very dominant. In Sweden there are a few agencies which are important employers; the Swedish Institute for Space Physics in Kiruna, the Swedish Space Corporation and EISCAT Scientific Association.

How are companies involved

We have wanted to involve stakeholders since the outset. We have external advisors on the board representing agencies that are also big employers. Their feedback regarding development affects the content of the programme. We encourage lecturers from industry.

In our area most research subjects are closely linked to the big employers. Among these Associated Partners are AeroSpace companies like Airbus and Thales, the European Space Agency, the German space administration DLR, and the French space agency CNES.

We also run projects together with local actors as The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth for example Space for innovation and growth (RIT).

85 percent of the students do their final thesis projects outside the universities. Our surveys further shows that 73 percent of the students do a summer internship after the first year of studies. For internships in the industry they typically will get a pay besides the experience and personal contacts.

What are the main challenges financially and administratively

Obviously funding is always a constraint for research groups. They cannot compete with industry in funding thesis work or with salaries.

Further, issues connected to Intellectual Property Rights are common. Often the parties agree on five years nondisclosure. “We need a lot of support from the legal staff at LTU”, Victoria Barabash reflects, “especially when foreign companies are involved”. Also some companies work with defence related projects. These are difficult for students of some nationalities to enter.

LTU (Sweden), Cranfield (UK) and Aalto (Finland) now all have high tuition fees. This is a big challenge for the recruitment. Fortunately we still seem attractive. Out of 40 students 12-15 are self funded. We have now only very few scholarships.

The main competitors are in France and Germany. Countries where they also have a strong industry and organizations in the field. “I hope in Swedish perspective that the Swedish Institute starts to market Sweden as a country for education much more systematically. Especially since we don’t have the same tradition in our economy to retain the foreign students. “

Final Advice

International programmes mean more work than regular ones and often lead to problems that are difficult to foresee. You must be prepared to think outside the box to solve administrative and other issues. At the same time, this is also very developing and exciting. “I see working with an international programme as more about developing people and their lives. It is not really about developing companies or industries. In addition, through this connecting people around the world. It is strongly recommended to have a long term commitment since it takes time to develop the necessary relationships”, says Victoria Barabash.

Space Engineering consortium

The partner institutions:

Cranfield University, UK

Czech Technical University, Prague

Aalto University, Helsinki

Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III


The interview with Dr. Victoria Barabash took place on June 12th, 2019.

Barabash is Senior Lecturer at LTH in Sweden in the Division of Space Technology and Head since 2004


The two year international master programme IMFSE started in 2010 initiated and still coordinated by Professor Bart Merci at Ghent University in Belgium. MFSE is now in its third term as a Mundus programme.

What is the nature and niche of the programme

It is expected that the need for engineers with thorough understanding of Fire Safety is growing as more and more high-rise buildings are being built around the world and since new building materials are getting implemented. The working market for IMFSE is quite clear and established but still the vast majority of persons working in this area today have a not a specific training, often they have at best a civil engineering education. There is only a handful of similar masters’ programmes offered today with a clear focus on Fire Safety.

First the students are put on assignments to reach different goals requirements. First year more theoretical to know necessary basics of structures, thermodynamics etc. Classic engineering and also risk analysis and human behavior theory is taught. In second year focus is moved to how to design certain systems; “What are the design implications and how to meet the expectations and specific regulations in place. In northern Europe, for example, the authorities generally enforce performance based designs. This means for example by specifying the maximum time for evacuating a certain type of building. In southern Europe the authorities generally control through descriptions. For example that a building should have a minimum number of exits. We must train the students to understand what is the goal behind the legislation and to be able to move beyond current legislation and building techniques.”

The clear majority of the students have an engineering or architecture background.

General layout of the programme

The two year master programme has compulsory mobility and the students either begin their studies in Edinburgh or Ghent. During the second semester all students study in Lund. This means that the students are then brought together for a full semester, which very much strengthens the cohesion of the student group. In semester three the students study in one of the three full partners depending on their interest. In semester four, for the thesis work, the students study at one of the three partner institutions or in one of the associate partner institutions. If the thesis is performed at an associated partner institution then the student has also a supervisor at one of the three full partners. Most students study at three institutions during the programme.

The choice of partners for the consortium was obvious since Ghent, Edinburg University and Lund University already had specializations in fire safety and were the arguably most established departments in the area in Europe.

Double and Joint degree combination by all three full partners started in October 2010.

Ghent University is responsible for the admission. Applicants complete a form online with information including recommendation letters, any publications etc. Merci sets up the first short list for interviews. Lund University and Edinburgh University should be in support of the list. After the interviews, a ranking is made. Lund University is responsible for a second screening. Best outcome for an applicant is to get admission and scholarship. Most students are offered admittance but with no stipend.

Prof. Bart about the interview: “We start asking general questions about their view on living abroad. We think it is important to get an understanding of how motivated they are. An international programme is challenging. But we ask also technical questions to test technical skills.”

There is no real limit on the number of seats in the program. The number of scholarships varies but is around 15. This year close to 25 students started. The students sit together with national students in the classroom.


  • Classes in Ghent have a general fire safety engineering focus
  • Classes in Edinburgh focus on fire dynamics, fire safety engineering and structural design for fire
  • Classes in Lund emphasise enclosure fire dynamics, risk analysis and human behaviour.

What is the working market like

There is a very high demand of this competence in the working market. Most students have secured an employment already before they graduate. The international component is very appreciated by employers. Approximately 75 percent are occupied in the commercial sector, mainly construction companies and real estate companies. A special advanced sector is construction consultancy companies that need advanced experts. This is a small area with only about a thousand persons worldwide.

The other main sector is within the public sector, mainly fire departments and legislative agencies. A limited number of the students continue within academia.

Prof. Merci do not see the very few similar master programmes – for example at Worcester polytechnic institute, University of Maryland in the USA and soon ETH in Zürich – as competitors but would instead welcome more programmes in the area: “We try to keep track of the alumni through social media like LinkedIn. The network is pretty strong since the alumni have very much the same interest and a focused job market.” IMFSE-alumni are now found in some 60 countries, broadly speaking in all continents except for Africa.

The alumni can easily work in different countries during their career if they prefer to. In some countries there are special exams in order to be allowed to work but those exams are not a big obstacle with the competence obtained after this programme.

The recruitment is very wide with students from all over the world. The coordinators notice an increase in the last couple of years of self-sponsored Chinese students. There have been no students from African yet but supposedly, this will change with increased urbanization and regulation and that more people can afford the studies.

How are companies involved

There is an industry advisory board where trends in the market are discussed to see if new or developed courses are needed. A meeting is organized every year in connection to Graduation Day to discuss the curriculum and development of the programme. The coordinators also each year organizes a “Fire safety day” during the winter involving companies and other stakeholders. It is a meet and greet day with panel discussions and the sponsors present. The event takes place in in one of the three partners’ campus. The students get support to finance their travel.

Companies also support internships during the summer break. They do guest lectures during the second year, often as a single lecture but it can also be for a full course. The environment changes so fast that it is good to bring in external lecturers.

What are the main challenges financially and administratively?

Administration of international programmes is always challenging and the regular funding is not sufficient. There are also more questions from prospective students for this kind of programme compared to a regular programme as well as during the studies.

Prof. Bart: “I am fortunate that at Ghent university there is now a long tradition to run Mundus-programmes. I have good support centrally. But I am also funding an assistant in my department from the fees to handle the student matters.” There is also administration needed in the two other partners. As an estimation two full time administrative staff is needed for this rather small consortium. Without fees it is very difficult or impossible.

Another challenge for the sustainability of the program is the high living costs in Europe. A consortium of organizations supporting the IMFSE means that they can offer a number of additional stipends above the European scholarships: “The EU funding cover more than the fee. Our own stipend covers only fees. A very few exceptional students can get an extra scholarship.” We have since last years also some self financed students.

The programme is now in its 3rd term. The budget was cut for the second term with only three grants per year. Now it is twelwe grants per year. The fee is EUR 10k per year for non EU-students and EUR 7k for EU-students.

We need more funding for this programme than the regular payment.

Finally, Brexit is special and unexpected challenge that affects this consortium since Edinburg University is in it.

Final Advice

As final words by Bart Merci: “Choose your partners wisely. Within this kind of cooperation you will have to take your partner’s word unconditionally. You want good partners on board, that means people you can trust and enter the cooperation with a very high level of motivation trust. I think size of the consortium should be a s big as it needs to be but not bigger. In our case we thought we were the three best partners. There is a competitiveness on European level but it is not good if you have only a few students in each partner. As coordinator and responsible for the admissions Universiteit Gent is the first point of entry and as coordinator I am generally the go-to-person. This means you will deal with a huge amount of issues and challenges. You must be prepared to take on this challenge.

IMFSE consortium

Full Partners:

Universiteit Gent, Belgium – Coordinator

Edinburgh University, UK

Lund University, Sweden

Associated Partners:

ETH, Switzerland

University of Maryland, USA

The University of Queensland, Australia

Industrial partners

Arup – IFIC Forensics – NFPA – GAE Engineering – Kingspan – WSP – PromatFPC – BRE – Fire Engineered Solutions Ghent – OFR Consultants – Basler & Hofmann – Jensen Hughes – Rockwool – DBI


The interview with Professor Bart Merci took place on March 13th, 2020.
Merci is full professor in the Department of Structural Engineering at Universiteit Gent