Erasmus+ 2017: what about disadvantaged students and staff?

ETUCE. Figures based on statistics from Erasmus+ Annual Report 2017

The European Commission has recently released its annual Erasmus report 2017, which gives an overview of the main activities under its three key actions (mobility, cooperation, and policy support) as well as the accomplishments of its Jean Monnet and sports programmes.

2017 was a particularly busy year in terms of student and staff mobility, with approximately 800,000 people benefiting from the Erasmus Programme. Overall, 312,300 students from third-level institutions took part in mobility activities in 2017, of which 88,900 undertook a work placement and  223,500 completed at least one semester in a participating university. 62,500 higher education staff also took part in an Erasmus exchange as did 160,000 VET learners.

However, only 67,500 disadvantaged students and staff  participated in Erasmus+ activities including approximately 2,000 participants with special needs. Furthermore, this report highlights that Erasmus loans have been made available in six countries with a view to promoting social inclusion and points out that many of the beneficiaries are first generation higher education attendees. As articulated in ETUCE’s statement on the 30th anniversary of Erasmus, such loans must be greeted with caution as they could incur additional debt for students and lead to the exclusion of socio-economically disadvantaged students.

ETUCE warmly welcomes the rise in number of universities holding Erasmus charters and is delighted that €8.5 million was dedicated to education and training projects in 2017. ETUCE also applauds the success of the Online Linguistic Tool, which saw a 52% increase in users in 2017, and hopes that additional language support will be extended to teachers and personnel hosting mobile  students in the future.

However, ETUCE is wary of Erasmus+ events promoting links between higher education institutions and businesses, such as the 7th University Business Forum, and reiterates that higher education should be a public good and protected from marketisation and privatisation. As regards the Proposal for the Erasmus Programme 2021-2027, ETUCE calls for more funding for students and staff with special needs. ETUCE also warns against using the increased Erasmus budget to fill in the gaps of potential missing  national education budgets.  We call for sustainable public investment to high quality higher education and research to which Erasmus+ could be an additional support. For further reading on ETUC/ETUCE’s views on the proposed Erasmus Programme 2021-2027, please click here.