DG EAC formally announced the launch of Erasmus+ Students and Alumni Association (ESAA) this Friday, 12th of June with a kick-off conference. About 250 participants were invited, including founding associations, representatives from the European Comimsion, and stakeholder representatives who have been involved in ESAA.

The new association is supported by DG EAC and represent uniting for existing associations under one umbrella, Erasmus Student Network (ESN), Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association (EMA), the garagErasmus Foundation and Erasmus+ Oceans.

The website highlights ESAA aim to  be a “dynamic platform for networking, professional development and intercultural learning while promoting European Higher Education and worldwide cooperation”. On the press site, it is also highlighted that the foreseen aim is to develop projects and improve quality of education, in addition to providing an alumni network. You can view the presentations from the launch here, where they highlight the aims of the new organization.

The Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport,  Tibor Navracsics, said about ESAA in the press release: “Erasmus+ is one of Europe’s flagship projects, and rightly so. Studying in another country, whether for a short or longer period, is a great experience for young Europeans: It helps them to enhance their skills as well as to understand and accept cultural and other differences. Student and alumni associations offer crucial support to help young people make the most of this opportunity – before, during and after their stay abroad. That is why I am very pleased that ESAA will help to channel this support and know-how even more effectively. I am looking forward to seeing new activities that will further improve the mobility experience, encourage networking and help promote the opportunities Erasmus+ offers to a wider audience.”

It appears that the event was marked with enthusiasm by those attending, and in social media the role of networking amongst members was frequently highlighted. For discussions and photos from the event – follow the #ESAAkickoff hashtag on Twitter.

However, the establishment of ESAA has also been met with considerable critique from ESU – the European Student Union, who has raised concerns about the representative nature of ESAA, Commission involvement in shaping a student organization and the kind of policy agenda that is being pushed.