This week, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Doris Pack, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, introduce the new Erasmus+ study abroad scheme in Europe.
“Erasmus+, the new European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport, is great news for millions of people. Aimed at boosting skills, employability and supporting the modernisation of education and training, the programme will have a budget of UK£12.3 billion [US$20 billion] 40 per cent higher than current levels over the next seven years.
Across Europe, more than four million people will receive support to study, train, work or volunteer abroad, including two million higher education students, 650 000 vocational training students and apprentices, 800,000 school teachers, lecturers, trainers, education staff and youth workers, as well as more than 500,000 going on youth exchanges or volunteering abroad. In the UK alone, nearly 250,000 people could benefit from Erasmus+ grants between now and 2020.
Erasmus+ builds on the success of the EU's existing Erasmus student exchange programme and similar initiatives. Since 2007, the UK has received grants totalling nearly UK£480 million [US$782] for students and others keen to increase their language skills and employability through opportunities to study or work abroad. This funding, managed by the British Council in partnership with Ecorys UK, has benefitted more than 160,000 students, teachers, youth workers and volunteers.
Under the new Erasmus+ programme, the UK will receive an additional 3.4 per cent in funding next year compared with the present level. This figure will rise each subsequent year up to 2020 in line with the overall 40 per cent budget increase for the new programme, enabling many more people to benefit from EU learning mobility grants.
We believe that Erasmus+ can contribute towards the fight against youth unemployment by improving skills people need in today's world. Erasmus+ covers all areas of formal and non-formal learning for pupils, students, apprentices, young people and adult learners through its components Comenius, Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo, Grundtvig and Youth in Action.
At a time when parts of our Union are turning in on themselves and extremist ideas are gaining currency, Erasmus+ will bring Europeans together and continue to symbolise some of the European Union's greatest aspirations and democratic values.
The individual benefits gained from opportunities to study or train abroad are well known. By spending time abroad, young people improve their language proficiency, adaptability and self-confidence. They learn how to live and work alongside people with different traditions and backgrounds. The skills gained through this international experience boost their employability and also have an impact on the EU economy as a whole.
Erasmus+ has three main targets: first, around 65 per cent of the budget is allocated to learning opportunities abroad for individuals, within the EU and beyond; second, the programme will support partnerships between educational institutions, youth organisations, businesses, training institutions, local and regional authorities, and NGOs; and, third, it will support reforms to modernise education and training and to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability.
In addition to grant support for studies and training abroad, students planning a full Master's degree abroad, for which national grants or loans are seldom available, will benefit from a new loan guarantee scheme run by the European Investment Fund.
The new Erasmus+ partnerships, called 'Knowledge Alliances' and 'Sector Skills Alliances', will help bridge the gap between education and the world of work by enabling higher education institutions, training providers and enterprises to work together and more effectively promote innovation and entrepreneurship. This means, for example, developing new curricula to tackle skills gaps.
Smaller-scale strategic partnerships will also seek to encourage cooperation between formal and non-formal learning across all sectors.
By strengthening the European Voluntary Service and international youth exchanges, Erasmus+ will also promote active citizenship and the participation of young people in democratic life.
Europe is facing tremendous economic and social challenges. We need a change of mind-set in order to emerge from the current economic crisis.
We are convinced that Erasmus+ has a vital role to play in meeting these challenges and giving millions of young Europeans hope for a better future.”
Androulla Vassiliou is the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Doris Pack is Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education.