A few days ago, on Tuesday, the European Parliament approved the new Erasmus+ programme and budget for 2014-2020. Erasmus+ represents a new approach by the European Union to approach its various programmes where existing programmes for education, training, youth and sport will be merged into one unified programme with a growing budget that will begin in January 2014.
The budget for the new programme is €14.7 billion which represents a 40% increase in comparison to current budgets. The name follows up on the existing Erasmus programme which is a successful mobility scheme for European higher education students. Erasmus has since its introduction in 1987 been the flagship project for education in the European Union, and in July 2013 the number of Erasmus students reached 3 million.
In the new Erasmus+ programme, existing EU programmes will be merged into one, including the Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig), Youth in Action and five international cooperation programmes (Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the programme for cooperation with industrialised countries). This also represents a more holistic perspective on education promoted by the EU in recent years where there is a clear aim of more policy coordination between various educational sectors but also with relevant adjacent policy areas.
The new programme will provide mobility grants for 4 million individuals, the press release highlighted that this includes 2 million higher education students, 650 000 vocational training students and apprentices, and half a million youth in exchange programmes as well as volunteers. Furthermore, funding will be provided for education and training staff, youth workers and for partnerships between universities, colleges, schools, enterprises, and not-for-profit organisations, following up on existing instruments and programmes.
A new development is the introduction of the European Master Loan Guarantee Facility, which will provide loans to those wanting to take their masters degree abroad. The European Student Union (ESU) has been critical about this development, while noting the marginal role of this instrument in the whole Erasmus+ budget and their overall satisfactn with the proposal. Rok Primozic, Chairperson of ESU, commented on this: “The budget that is allocated to the loan scheme and the amount of marketing that will be used to support this initiative is questionable, to say the least. It will set a highly negative precedence for the funding of mobility and education programmes, not to mention a possible brain drain across regions in Europe. However, it is still important to remember that this is still a quite small part of the Erasmus+ budget. The overall achievements in the programme that are aimed at students are very much in the interest of students”.
The programme is also seen to have important role in combating a serious issue in the EU – youth unemployabolity. Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth highlighted this in the press release: “I am pleased that the European Parliament has adopted Erasmus+ and proud that we have been able to secure a 40% budget increase compared with our current programmes. This demonstrates the EU’s commitment to education and training. Erasmus+ will also contribute to the fight against youth unemployment by giving young people the opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills through experience abroad.” The relevance of EU educational programmes in combating youth unemployment was also highlighted as central by the rapporteur of the European Parliament, Doris Pack: “We are not starting from zero in the fight against youth unemployment and our efforts for training, mobility and the coming together of the Europeans, but we have to take care of the existing programmes and fund them adequately.”
The new programme was approved in the Parliament with a large majority, and will now go to the European Council for approval and will then start 1st of January 2014.