Erasmus: no longer ‘for all’
The Irish Presidency calculates that over four million people will benefit from EU grants for education and training opportunities abroad between 2014 and 2020 – almost doubling the numbers who currently receive these supports.
Erasmus+ supports international study, training, teaching and volunteering opportunities. A new and controversial element of the package is the student loan guarantee facility which allows students to take out a loan of € 12.000 yearly, or € 18.000 for two years, in order to do a masters’ degree abroad.
Not enough to live on
Doris Pack (EPP) negotiated the Erasmus+ package on behalf of the European Parliament. “We have been fighting very hard for this new element: the loan guarantee scheme. If you receive an Erasmus grant you have € 200 a month, not enough to live on and not enough to die. In fact, Erasmus is not for all: only those with financial support can study abroad.”
Students’ organizations like ESU have been very critical on the loan guarantee scheme. The main reason being that students should not get themselves into big debts, especially during economic harsh times.
Ms. Pack thinks this is a rubbish argument: “We do not burden anybody who does not want to be burdened! My god, you can see the danger in everything! It’s not obligatory to take out a loan. It’s an offer to those students who cannot afford to go abroad on an Erasmus grant.”
The French would never accept
In the last couple of months Doris Pack put a lot of energy in the dossier. She wanted to change the name from the Commission’s ‘Erasmus for all’ to ‘Yes Europe’, something that attracted much criticism. “
Now the fight is over she says: “’Yes Europe’ was only a name to bargain with. It was clear from the onset that the French would never accept an English name and it was clear that the UK would never agree on the wording, since ‘No Europe’ suits them better.”
“It’s like an Arabic bazar here in Brussels, it’s a constant bargaining”, she concludes. Ms. Pack surely is someone who likes this game of haggling and bluff and skilfully uses emotions to make her point.
“We totally changed the initial Commission proposal.”, Pack says. “We made is much more user friendly. The established brand names for education – Comenius, Erasmus, Grundtvig and Leonardo da Vinci – remain.” Pack herself coined some of these names in the past.
A recipe against the crisis
The Irish Presidency is pleased it has finally brokered a deal on Erasmus. Announcing the agreement, the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn said: “ Ireland’s core aim during our Presidency term is to seek ways of supporting sustainable jobs and growth in Europe. With unemployment, particularly amongst young people, at very high levels across Europe, this new programme will have a key role in tackling and resolving the crisis.”
Who will benefit from Erasmus+?
- Up to 4 million people will benefit from EU grants for education & training opportunities abroad between 2014 and 2020, which is nearly double the number who are currently eligible for these supports
How Erasmus+ will make a difference
- More opportunities for higher education and vocational students to study and train abroad to improve their skills and job prospects
- More opportunities for teachers, trainers and youth workers to study and train in another country
- More opportunities for young people to learn through youth exchanges, volunteering and participation in democratic life
- More opportunities for education and training institutions to exchange good practice
- Increased cooperation between educational institutions, businesses or regional authorities and other bodies such as youth organisations
- Launch of new ‘Knowledge Alliances’ between higher education institutions and businesses
- Expanding the eTwinning initiative that connects schools via the internet
- Better cooperation in education policy, with an emphasis on practical outcomes such as the Europass CV, which is used by more than 10 million Europeans
- More support for higher education in other parts of the world, particularly in neighbouring countries
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