Erasmus+: How did we do in 2015?

Erasmus+: How did we do in 2015?

 In mid-2014, the new possibilities for international higher education cooperation and mobility offered by Erasmus+ were announced, namely: Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (first selection under Erasmus+ in 2014); Capacity-building for Higher Education (first selection under Erasmus+ in 2015); International credit mobility (first selection under Erasmus+ in 2015); and Jean Monnet Actions (first selection under Erasmus+ in 2014). As we step into 2016, it’s time to consider where we stand now.

We presented the then new Erasmus+ opportunities at the Annual EAIE Conferences in Prague and Glasgow. We’ve been trying to show that things are not too different from the past, as the programme builds and expands upon tried and tested types of cooperation. Erasmus+ activities essentially reflect the sort of cooperation schemes that universities are involved in anyway.

Nevertheless, there are some changes and news in regards to the way we manage these activities under Erasmus+. Now that the ‘Call for Proposals’ cycle is well and truly underway, with selections made under all four components, how are we getting on?

  1. International Credit Mobility

International credit mobility extends the classic Erasmus of the past 27 years and funds short-term mobility for students and staff between ‘Programme Countries[i]’ and ‘Partner Countries’, in either direction. Each Programme Country is allocated a number of regional budgets. It can then use each budget to fund mobility agreements between one of its higher education institutions (HEIs), and an HEI in another partner country. For example, the national agency in the Netherlands could select a mobility agreement between a Dutch university and a university in India.

The funding for this worldwide dimension was not ready in time for the 2014 selection, so 2015 was the first year that a selection was made. National agencies and the Commission worked hard at setting up and implementing these new rules and procedures. While the modus operandi was based to a large extent on intra-European Erasmus, the international dimension – and particularly the ring-fenced budgets for separate regions – resulted in some new challenges to address.

A lot needed to be done in a short time, and ultimately a second round was required to ensure all the funding was used up. But, all in all, the results were pretty good. Some 600 agreements were selected, which together will move about 14 000 students and 11 000 staff. About 70% of these will be coming into Europe, while 30% represents Europeans going to partner countries.

  1. Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees

For those of you who don’t yet know them, Erasmus Mundus Joint Master degrees are integrated Master level courses offered by a consortium of HEIs. There must be a minimum of three HEIs from different Programme Countries: beyond this minimum, additional partners can be from Programme Countries or Partner Countries. Together, they offer a course of between 60 and 120 ECTS (12 to 24 months). The courses must take place in at least two partner HEIs, and the programme should offer either a joint degree, or degrees from each of the universities attended.

With EU funds, the consortia are able to offer scholarships covering participation costs, travel, subsistence and insurance for excellent students from anywhere in the world. A typical Master’s scholarship will be around EUR 45000 for a two-year course.

There are now 103 Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees currently selecting students to start programmes in September 2016: these include a number of continuing Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses from a time before Erasmus+.

Under Erasmus+, the Commission will be selecting an ever-increasing number of new programmes every year. In 2014, 11 were funded, and 15 in 2015. These 15 programmes include 67 institutions of which eight are from partner countries outside the EU. These 15 cover a range of academic disciplines as diverse as medical imaging, wine tourism and parliamentary procedures, among many more. The budget for the 2016 selection should be sufficient for 27 new Master’s programmes.

  1. Capacity-building for Higher Education

Capacity-building for Higher Education (CBHE) are transnational projects designed and run by partnerships of HEIs, aiming to strengthen HEI capacities, teaching and management, and support more structural reform in the higher education sector. There are two main types of projects: ‘Joint Projects’ that operate at an institutional level and can develop curricula, improve governance and management systems, linking HEIs with wider socio-economic players; and ‘Structural’ Projects that operate more on a macro level and will seek to modernise policies, governance and management of HE systems, linking HE systems with the wider world.

Many projects will choose to focus on a region. But CBHE also allows you to set up a partnership that brings together HEIs from different partner regions in the world (for example a project focusing on forestry might include partners from Brazil and Indonesia). In 2015, 140 projects were selected, of which 18 were Structural Projects. It was encouraging to see that 28 of the projects (20%) are coordinated by an institution from a partner country. Worldwide, the Agency received 515 applications. While this is slightly less than under the previous programmes, it was nevertheless perceived as positive in this first year under Erasmus+.

Per region, the response was varied: we hope to see more from Asia next time, although this was a region with no equivalent programme running prior to 2014 – unlike Latin America’s ALFA programme, for example. Projects from the EU’s neighbouring regions could also elect to include a component for students and staff mobility within their project, yet this turned out to be less popular than expected.

  1. Jean Monnet

Jean Monnet activities aim to develop EU studies worldwide. For over 25 years they have been supporting study modules, chairs and centres of excellence promote excellence in teaching and research on the European integration process at higher education level. Networks and projects under Jean Monnet foster cooperation and transfer of knowledge and good practice in this area. The programme also supports a number of associations in this domain.

In 2015, 261 activities were selected. Learning modules (108) and projects (55) make up the largest share of these, but 40 chairs, 33 centres of excellence and 14 associations were also supported. Application levels were almost twice as high in 2015 as in 2014. It is encouraging to see how much interest there is outside Europe for EU studies – also reflected in the selected projects. In 2015, the 261 selected projects were split roughly 50:50 between projects from programme countries (133) and those from elsewhere in the world (128). Within Europe, the nationalities of the selected projects still show a much greater interest from the south of Europe than, for instance, Nordic countries.

Adrian is Policy Officer at the European Commission, Belgium.

[i] There are 33 Programme Countries: these are the 28 EU Member States, plus five other countries that have signed agreements to take part. All other countries in the world are Partner Countries. Find a full definition in Annex III of the Programme Guide.

This week on the EAIE blog, we have been looking at different elements of the Erasmus+ programme since 2014. Make sure to check out the first blog post, published earlier this week, for a break-down of the first tangible results from the programme’s first years.