A new look for student mobility: Erasmus+

A new look for student mobility: Erasmus+

One of the most hotly debated topics in international higher education is the EU’s new programme-in-the-making for education, training and youth, which will replace existing education and training programmes: Erasmus+. An agreement has finally been reached, and European Commission and the international higher education community representatives gathered at the EAIE Conference in Istanbul to discuss Erasmus+ and its next steps.

From seven to one: a consolidation of programmes

In July, the Commission published its Communication on European higher education in the world, outlining its policy priorities as well as expectations from the higher education community and Member State governments. The concrete tools to support the achievement of these priorities will constitute the new EU programme, Erasmus+. The main aim of the new umbrella programme for training and education will be similar to that of the previous programmes, ie to improve skills and employability as well as to support the modernisation of education. Erasmus+ would replace the existing Lifelong Learning Programme, ie Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius and Grundtvig as well as Youth in Action and the international cooperation programmes Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the programme for cooperation with industrialised countries. The idea behind having one programme instead of seven is to streamline the application rules and processes as well as ensure synergies between the different actions.

During the EAIE Conference, higher education professionals voiced their concerns over the fact that rules and procedures have been streamlined yet the programme administration and procedures have not been simplified: at the moment it seems as though less work in administering the programme is not to be foreseen, though only time will tell for sure.

Mobility, cooperation and policy support

The new programme will continue to focus on learning mobility for EU citizens but for the first time, non-EU individuals can benefit as well in the form of study and training, traineeships, teaching and professional development and activities to integrate youth into society. This first key action will receive the main part of the programme budget. The second key action consists of institutional cooperation between higher education organisations (HEIs), employers, youth organisations and governmental bodies. Cooperation with non-EU countries and policy reform in the EU in the form of transparency tools, support for modernisation and policy dialogues makes up the third key action.

The three key actions of the programme will be complemented with new initiatives such as the Erasmus Master’s degree student loan guarantee scheme and enhanced emphasis on business and education sector cooperation in the form of knowledge and sector skills alliances. Even though adopting a single programme framework has been praised for creating a more visible programme, if the actions are to gain prevalence in non-EU countries, better promotion in these countries will be vital.

From ‘ERASMUS for All’ and ‘Yes Europe’ to ‘Erasmus+’

Since the extensive consultation with HEIs and organisations in the field such as the EAIE, and the publication of the legislative proposal in November 2011, many battles have been fought. The name of the new programme evoked many emotions and opinions, changing from ‘ERASMUS for All’ and ‘Yes Europe’ to ‘Erasmus+’. The European Parliament and the Council – the two bodies approving the programme – have also disagreed on the retention of the Lifelong Learning Programme’s sub-programme brand names, the inclusion of detailed objectives for the education, youth and training chapters, and giving the Commission extended power to amend aspects of the programme. By the end of June 2013, the Council and Parliament finally reached an agreement.

Billions, dates and deadlines

Erasmus+ is scheduled to be voted on by the Parliament in November to be approved in time for the 2014 Calls. In late July, the Commission already published the template for inter-institutional agreements between higher education institutions for the new programme in anticipation of the decision to be taken in autumn. The deadline for the first key action of the programme, student and staff mobility, will be in March 2014. The preliminary application deadline for the second key action is April 2014, and the deadline for the third key action has not yet been confirmed.

At the end of June this year, a compromise was reached on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – the EU’s budget for 2014-2020. In the budget negotiations, the Parliament and the Commission asked for more funds for youth, education and training making them a priority in the EU’s quest to become more competitive in the globalised world. As such, youth and training will receive an approximate 40% budget increase, or a total of 14.5 billion euros for the time period 2014–2020. The budget allocated to Erasmus+ will be officially approved in October this year.

Keep following the EAIE blog for future updates on this hotly anticipated programme.