Parliament backs new €28B Erasmus+

19 May 2021 | News

The first calls launched in March. Now, the money can start flowing

Parliament’s rapporteur for the file, Milan Zver. Photo: European Parliament

The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted the new €28 billion Erasmus+, taking the final step in the two-and-a-half-year political process of bringing the seven-year education and exchange programme to life.

In the final plenary debate, the Parliament’s rapporteur for the file, Milan Zver, recalled the difficult negotiations and praised the doubling of the budget and enhanced access to the programme for students coming from disadvantage backgrounds.

“Erasmus+ does not only benefit its participants; it benefits universities, schools, local communities and society in general,” Zver said. “This has been recognised by our political leaders.”

EU policymakers agreed on the budget and the final details of the programme in December. Since then they have been rushing to finalise the legislative process. To limit delays between the previous and the new programme, the European Commission launched the first calls in March. With the legislation now finalised, the money can soon start flowing.

The MEPs were happy with the final result, praising the inclusiveness of the new Erasmus+ to adult learners, students with disabilities, refugees and those in poverty. They are also pleased with the focus on making the programme greener, for example, by encouraging students to travel by train. 

But many recalled the Parliament‘s hope of tripling the budget, suggesting more could have been done to boost Erasmus+. “In the long run, the programme has had one shortcoming: it’s not been able to satisfy all those who would like to participate. That is why as the European Parliament we called for tripling of its budget,” said centre right MEP Michaela Šojdrová. “The long term goal of the programme is that every student and every future teacher should be able to participate in Erasmus.”

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel promised participation will be higher than ever. Since 1987, Erasmus+ has supported over 10 million students and teachers. Over the next seven years, the number of participants is expected to double, she told the MEPs.

Doors open for the UK

This will be the first time the UK will not be part of Erasmus+ after the country opted out of the scheme during Brexit negotiations, instead setting up its own £100 million university exchange programme, the Turing Scheme.

In response, the Irish government volunteered to fund students and teachers from Northern Ireland wishing to participate in Erasmus+, which is expected to cost the country around €2.1 million a year.

Ciarán Cuffe, Irish MEP from the Green party, expressed support for bringing back Erasmus for Northern Ireland’s students. “Brexit, like COVID, has also clipped their wings, the wings of young people. I support the Irish Government’s shared island approach to restore access for Northern Irish students to Erasmus+ and hopefully sports and youth exchanges will be included,” he said

Meanwhile, Šojdrová reminded the plenary that third country schools can still participate in the scheme under the current rules, meaning some UK students could still be eligible.  “Erasmus+ regulation allows for cooperation with third country schools. I would like to appeal to the Commission to make use of this cooperation between schools in the EU and the UK,” she said.

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