For decades Erasmus has been a trademark of the European Union, providing an opportunity for nearly 3 million young people to experience learning or taking an internship abroad. When it was mentioned that there would be no money available for Erasmus exchanges at the end of 2012, it mobilised national and local media. If European students can now read the budgetary procedure of the EU, it is probably because of the famous education programme.
Crucial, but delayed
While almost everyone agrees that investing in education and skills is important, actions sometimes go against verbal commitments. In the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020, the European Commission has opted for an increase of 70%, comparing to the previous EU budget.
Member states however ignored the fact, that even with an increase, spending on education, culture, youth and sport wouldn’t equal 1,5% of the total MFF. The Commission’s proposal suffered nearly 15%. While the European Parliament is trying hard to reverse the cuts in these areas, since they are regarded crucial for the economy, the processes of launching Erasmus+ is getting delayed.
One can find plenty of information on the web to familiarise oneself with the changes Erasmus+ has brought since the last generation of EU education and youth programmes. Hereunder, some of the details related to the implementation of Erasmus+, as presented by the European Commission during the Neth-ER working group meeting are unveiled.
Learning mobility for individuals
First of all, there will be some delays. To get the legal base for the programme approved, the decision-makers first need to reach a deal on the budget. It is difficult to say when the calls will be launched, but the Commission is taking into account the academic year cycle and promise with regards to learning mobility for individuals.
The call for cooperation and innovation activities is expected to be launched in April 2014. The Commission hints, that the programme aims to support the European mobility target of 20% by 2020. Therefore the priority goes to funding individual learning mobility, like study exchanges, internships and volunteering.
Different in Denmark and Bulgaria
Next, the Erasmus+ is designed with the social dimension kept in mind. For Erasmus exchanges, the Commission has suggested grouping the countries of destination into three groups. These categories follow the Eurostat data on the living expenditure. This means that students will receive a minimum grant, set on the centralised level. The height grant depends on the study destination, it will be different in Bulgaria than Denmark. At the same time, the member states are encouraged to put more national funding to support the exchange mobility and provide students with sufficient grants.
Stimulating the most popular countries
Following the national established criteria, there will be top-up’s available for the students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Hopefully, such practice will encourage a number of countries that neither have a definition nor data in place on the students with particular needs, to come up with one. Erasmus internships will get an increase in funding and will be compatible with the salary, which student may receive at the internship place.
Designing the Erasmus+ looks like a serious take on the misgivings from the previous Lifelong Learning Programme. For example, the institutional agreements will get more detailed and require better preparation from sending and receiving institution, as well as from the student. To enhance the language skills before going abroad, students will get an opportunity to take online language courses. Unfortunately, the courses will be provided only in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, the countries that already attract the highest number of exchange students. Some steps still have to be taken to balance the mobility flows.
As mentioned earlier, the budget situation is yet to be resolved, also to avoid the shortage of payments for 2013-2014. At this moment, there is no reason to panic, but to plan future exchange.
In upcoming articles former-ESU Chair Karina Ufert will be looking into what the future suggests for the infamous EU Master Loan Guarantee Scheme, as well as other activities that will be supported by Erasmus+.
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