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The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER)

ASPHER is the key independent European organisation dedicated to strengthening the role of public health by improving education and training of public health professionals for both practice and research.
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The von der Leyen Commission: ASPHER welcomes Mariya Gabriel as Commissioner-designate for Innovation and Youth

Publication date: 09.10.2019
Author: John Middleton

ASPHER would like to congratulate Mariya Gabriel of Bulgaria, who was selected for Commissioner for Innovation and Youth by European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. The new Commissioner will absorb education duties, currently performed by the Education Commissioner. Gabriel holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Politics and International Relations’ from the Insitute of Political Studies, Bordeaux.  She is the current European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.

In her mission letter to Gabriel, von de Leyen emphasized that: The best investment in our future is in our young people, our innovators and our researchers. Education, research and innovation will be key to our competitiveness and our ability to lead in the transition to a climate-neutral economy and new digital age. It is about equipping people with the knowledge, life experience and skills they need to thrive. Our world-leading science, research and innovation capacity can help us find European solutions to the most pressing global issues. By cooperating across languages, borders and disciplines, we can collectively address the societal challenges and skills shortages that currently exist.” 

ASPHER wholeheartedly embraces and welcomes the mandate given to Gabriel. It goes without saying that ASPHER’s core mission as Europe’s key independent association of schools of public health is to strengthen the role of public health by improving education and training of public health professionals for both practice and research. ASPHER is aligned with many aspects of the mission Gabriel has been charged with; from investing in students and young professionals to advocating for lifelong continuing professional development to equip the multi-disciplinary public health workforce with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to meet current and future challenges.

Importantly, Gabriel will be given the responsibility of managing and implementing the €94.1 billion Horizon Europe research programme and supporting the objective of tripling the Erasmus+ programme. She has been charged with building a true European Research Area and with making the European Education Area a reality by 2025. This would remove barriers to learning, improving access to quality education and making it easier for learners to move between countries, including the full implementation of the European Universities initiative enabling students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several European countries. She has been asked to maximise the potential of European exchange programmes to foster international cooperation in education, research and innovation. ASPHER Members must take advantage of and welcome the opportunities this presents to participate; thus building, strengthening and promoting European schools of public health and public health’s capacity to help protect the health of the population and the planet. 

Gabriel is charged with “promoting excellence and networking among European universitiescontributing to the international standing and competitiveness of our universities.” With over 150 Member Schools from across Europe, ASPHER can be held as a shining example of an organization already aligned to this directive. We hope that Gabriel may join us in 2020 at our annual ASPHER Deans’ & Directors’ Retreat to be held in the Commissioner- designate’s home country of Bulgaria from 31 May – 3 June 2020. The Retreat will be an excellent opportunity to see cross border synergy in action between schools and programmes of public health, sharing best practices and innovations in education, training, research and practice in order to sustain capacity building and prepare Europe’s public health workforce to face the population’s health challenges and threats.

John Middleton
ASPHER President 

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