Erasmus+ wants to reach beyond university students

The EU's recovery fund must be used to support significant investments in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship, also known as Gen-E, write Salvatore Nigro and Andzelika Rusteikienė.  

A new and updated version of the European exchange programme will be accessible to more people and receive a 40% budget increase. EURACTIV France reports.

The European Parliament gave its green light on Tuesday (19 November) to the new version of the EU education programme, Erasmus+. As of 2014, Erasmus will not be only accessible to students and teachers as it was, but also to apprentices, trainees, lecturers, volunteers, youth workers and even sportsmen.

MEPs from almost all political groups voted overwhelmingly in favour of the revised Erasmus, a rare occurrence in the EP.

The mobility programme will receive a 40% budget increase for the next financial period 2014-2020, a victory made even more significant by the fact that the EU budget voted this week saw a 4% decrease compared to the previous financial period.

The overall budget for Erasmus+ is €14.7 billion for the 2014-2020 period, the objective of the programme is to send four million young Europeans aged 13 to 30 to learn in another EU country.

However, austerity measures have had an impact on the programme.

Scholarships have been reduced in favour of a loan guarantee scheme for Master’s students. This system is similar to the one in the United States, where students are granted loans under more favourable conditions in order to finance their studies abroad.

The Erasmus exchange system has existed since 1987 and is one of the rare relatively unquestioned success stories of the European Union.

Since that time, three million young European have made use of the student exchange programme in one of the member countries, which include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey, as well as the 28 member states.

Focus on apprenticeship

“There is a special focus on vocational teaching in this programme”, says Isabelle Thomas, French Socialist MEP, even though the programme is more present and more popular among university students, it will now have to gain visibility in vocational education and training.

“The money will then be allocated depending on the students’ demands”, Thomas stressed, meaning that it will be up to the governments and the states to make Erasmus+ known in technical and vocational fields.

“In these times of austerity, we must invest everything we can afford to in education. The 40% increase in the budget for the new Erasmus + shows that the EU understands this principle more than ever”, said MEP Morten LØKKEGAARD (ALDE).

“We must do everything to avoid sacrificing the generation that will be the foundation of tomorrow's society. Increasing by 40% the European budget + Erasmus, millions of young people can study, teach or volunteer abroad by 2020. Training is not a cost but an investment!” said MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D)

“In the current fiscal environment, Erasmus for all is a kind of miracle. Indeed, it has escaped the cutbacks in the Council. Even if it isless than the initial proposal of the Commission, it will still be one of the few EU programs to be significantly increased.One can only welcomed this”, MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL) said.

"The Leonardo da Vinci Programme has been around since 1995 and it has been a great success. 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." said rapporteur Doris Pack (EPP)

Thirty-three countries take part in the Erasmus programme, the EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

Erasmus became part of the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme in 2007, covering new areas such as student placements in enterprises (transferred from the Leonardo da Vinci Programme), university staff training and teaching for business staff.

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