EDUCATION : PARLIAMENT GREEN-LIGHTS ERASMUS PLUS
6 December 2013
MEPs have given the green light for the Erasmus Plus programme for education, training, youth and sport to start on 1 January 2014. Meeting in plenary session on 19 November, they approved the draft regulation establishing this programme, and in a separate vote on the EU's multiannual financial framework, they also approved a budget of €14.77 billion for Erasmus Plus for the period 2014-2020. Considering recent cuts to other EU programmes, this is a minor miracle.
“If Erasmus Plus did not exist, we would have had to invent it,” said the rapporteur, Doris Pack (EPP, Germany). “It creates European added value for regional, national and sometimes local policies on education and youth […] It allows more than five million young people to study, train and volunteer abroad.”
GOALS, INDICATORS AND ACTIONS
The new programme for the period 2014-2020 will be called Erasmus Plus, as a compromise between Parliament (which wanted to call it Yes Europe) and the Commission and Council (which preferred Erasmus for All). It is based on programmes led by the Union so far to promote the exchange and development of teaching and training methods within the socio-educational system: Comenius (schools), Erasmus (higher education), Leonardo da Vinci (teaching and professional training) and Grundtvig (adult education). For the first time, it will also include sport.
Each part of the programme has specific goals, key indicators and actions to be carried out. For example, the sport section of Erasmus Plus is based on popular sports, and has the specific goal of fighting cross-border threats that affect the integrity of sport (such as drugs), to promote and support good governance in sport, as well as promoting volunteer activities. Relevant indicators are the number of members of sporting organisations taking part in the programme, per country, and the percentage of participants using the results of cross-border projects.
The budget for each section will also be different, and clearly separated. The total budget for the programme is €14.7 billion: this is €2.6 billion less than the budget proposed by the Commission, but an increase of around €7 billion (47%) over the previous period of programming. This amount will be divided out between the different parts of the programme: €11.45 billion for education and training; €1.47 billion for youth; €280 million for Jean Monnet activities and €260 million for sport.
Aside from the increase in funding, the other major change to the programme is the introduction of a new student loan guarantee scheme provided to master's students to enable them study in another member state. Specifically, this tool will provide partial guarantees to financial intermediaries (determined by the European Investment Fund) covering competitive loans of a maximum of €12,000 for a master's of one year, or €18,000 for a master's of two years. The co-legislators, who are seriously divided over the added value of such a tool, have nonetheless chosen to limit the amount available for this instrument to €517 million (3.5% of the programme's total budget) and to subject it to an assessment at the end of 2017.
During the debate preceding the vote, several MEPs expressed doubts over the added value of such a mechanism. “The student loan guarantee is a casus belli: rather than push member states to provide grants, we will encourage students to get into debt to pay for their studies. This is symptomatic of the EU's liberalism,” said Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE-NGL, France) by way of explanation of her party's rejection of the text.
The Council must now approve the compromise, which is expected to be only a formality.