Erasmus+: added value for higher education?

Erasmus+: added value for higher education?

After almost two years of negotiations with the European Council and the European Parliament, the European Commission is ready to launch Erasmus+ on 1 January 2014. With an agreed budget of 14.7 billion (an increase of 40% on current levels), the programme is set to run for the next seven years. What does the new programme really mean for higher education? Here’s a guide to the final agreements and implications of this highly anticipated programme.

Together with Erasmus Ambassadors, Erasmus Mundus and Oceans Alumni, the EAIE was invited as one of the Erasmus multipliers to learn more about Erasmus+ at a special training session organised by the European Commission in November. In addition to discovering what Erasmus+ means for higher education, all participants discussed how to promote the new features of the three Key Actions.

What’s new in Erasmus+?

Credit mobility remains important but degree mobility is taken into account as joint programmes are included in the programme and student loans for Master’s degrees are introduced. Besides education, Erasmus+ is also the new programme for Training, Youth and Sport. As an integrated programme it should be easier to access, with simplified funding rules. A decision on the budget related to the integration of the different international higher education programmes (eg Tempus, EduIink) is expected in December.

Key Action 1: Greater student and staff mobility

With 63% of the Erasmus+ budget dedicated to learning mobility, this Key Action aims to increase current levels of mobility: greater diversity of mobility types, more inclusive programmes, more languages, etc. The level of the mobility grants will be adapted to different needs, including the country living costs. Each student can benefit from the grants for up to 12 months per study cycle and transition rules for students in the Lifelong Learning Programme will be in place.

The programme aims to open up Europe to the partner countries, increasing student and staff mobility flows with 135 000 individuals moving between programmes and partner countries. All levels and disciplines will be involved. There will be no geographical limit for what was known as the Erasmus Mundus Action 1, and universities from partner countries will be encouraged to become full partners.

The new Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE) focusses on the three different stages of mobility and provides more information on how participants in Erasmus+ are prepared, informed and evaluated before, during and after their mobility period. The EC received more than 4000 ECHE applications and the results will be available from the 30 November. Best practices will be showcased by the European Commission, and feedback on the users will be gathered and provided to the higher education institutions (HEIs) directly. A monitoring system for these ECHEs will be put in place and together with the National Agencies and the European Commission , HEIs will need to check and act on the feedback received. As a result, the inter-institutional agreement has been revised and ECHE principles are included. In order to reduce the paper work, scanned signatures and exchanges of the agreement by e-mail are allowed.

Participants of learning mobility also need better language preparation. Online tutored language courses will be developed for the five languages that have been identified to be used mainly: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.  For the many other European languages, HEIs will be able to organise language support, depending on their size and capacity.

Key Action 2: Strategic Partnerships, Knowledge Alliances & Capacity Building

The second action is all about partnerships, participation and commitment between HEIs, enterprises and professional organisations. However, the EC has more work to be done in clarifying the distinctive key features of these partnerships, alliances and projects.

Implementing innovative practices leading to high quality teaching and learning, institutional modernisation and social innovation is the focus of the Strategic Partnerships – a new name for what most of us know as the former Multilateral Projects under the Lifelong Learning Programme. In Erasmus+, intensive study programmes, distance learning modules or blended learning modules can also be developed.

The Knowledge Alliances on the other hand aim to increase research, cooperation and fostering of innovation between HEIs and industry. Besides stimulating entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial competences of students and (academic and company) staff, Knowledge Alliances should also foster new attitudes towards university-business cooperation. The topics handled in these Knowledge Alliances are crucial and should contain real-life practical business problems which students, staff and the whole alliance can work upon.

Tempus, Alfa, Edulink, etc found their successor in the Capacity Building projects. The budget for these projects is expected to be announced in late December and a call will be launched in spring 2014. The Capacity Building projects will be open to many different world regions such Latin-America, Africa, MENA etc, and two types of projects will be possible: Joint Projects (curriculum development, modernisation, learning materials and tools, language skills, entrepreneurship education, transparency tools) and Structural Projects. For some regions a special mobility strand for staff and students will be introduced similar to the study and placement mobilities in Key Action 1.

Key Action 3: Policy support projects

4% of the Erasmus+ budget will be devoted to policy support projects. These projects will focus on how to implement EU developments in higher education policy such as recognition of formal, non-formal and informal learning, networking between ENIC and NARIC, etc.

Jean Monnet Programme

The Jean Monnet Programme will continue to involve the promotion of excellence in European integration studies in higher education. Currently active in 76 countries, with 800 universities involved, the programme includes around 1057 European Modules, 956 Jean Monnet Chairs, 177 Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence and some 4000 projects on European integration studies. The programme will continue under Erasmus+ as a separate activity, centrally managed.

Get ready for the new Erasmus+

The next announcements on the approved Erasmus Charter Higher Education (ECHE) are expected to be published soon. For many HEIs, the most important step is to get fully involved in Key Action 1 of Erasmus+. Make sure to check the e-newsletters of the European Commission – Education & Culture, follow Erasmus+ on Facebook, look out for the publication of the brand new Call for Proposals and Guidelines in late December and start sharpening your pencils in preparation!