The Erasmus program was created in 1987 to ease cooperation between European universities and allow for full academic recognition of studies and qualifications throughout the Union. Erasmus offers the possibility of studying abroad in 33 countries for between 3 months and 1 year, with scholarships providing monthly funding at an average of €250 (depending on the destination and source). The program had proved popular with close to 3 million students participating.
Last fall it became evident that the Erasmus program was facing serious financial difficulty in light of the fiscal crisis in the European Union. Across all EU programmes, the 2012 budget faced several billions shortfall. Seven countries (Austria, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden) were refusing to agree to commission proposals to increase expenditure in the 2013 budget by 6.8%. This meant that the future of the Erasmus program was uncertain.
In addition, the European Commission submited a proposal in November 2011 to merge all the different EU programmes for education, training, youth and sport for the 2014-2020 period into a single project called Erasmus for All. Up to 5 million people, almost twice as many as now, could benefit that programme (with nearly 3 million higher education and vocational students). In return, the programme should have a total budget of € 19 billion, an increase of budget by approximately 70% over seven years.
Fans of the program launched media campaigners to "Save Erasmus" and members of the EU government sought a compromise. On 15 February 2013, the 27 Ministers of Education of the European Union presented a preliminary agreement to increase by 50% the money allocated to Erasmus over the 2014-2020 period. However the total amount will depend on negotiations with the European Parliament (a permanent agreement should be reached by June 2013) which started yesterday.
The changes in funding come with major changes to the Erasmus program as we know it. The program will be rebranded as "Erasmus for All". This will replace all current programs (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig, Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and bilateral cooperation program with industrialized countries). The hope is that combining the programs under one roof will reduce administration costs, duplication and fragmentation.
The programme will support three main types of actions:
In addition, the program would provide a loan guarantee scheme to
help Master's degree students to finance their studies abroad and to
acquire the skills needed for knowledge intensive jobs. It would also
create 400 "knowledge alliances" and "sector skills alliances".
Knowledge alliances are large-scale partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship by offering new learning opportunities and qualifications.
Sector skills alliances are partnerships between education and training providers and businesses to promote employability by forming new sector-specific curricula and innovative forms of vocational teaching and training.
This is part of an effort to ensure that students have not just the knowledge, but skill sets to combat youth unemployment.