These are decisive times in Brussels. In May 2018, the European Commission published its Proposal for the successor programme to Erasmus+. The scheme is to run from 2021 to 2027. Erasmus+ will, according to the Commission’s Proposal, be named simply Erasmus. The Commission Proposal started a legislative procedure hoped to come to conclusion by the first half of the year 2020. The ball is now in the court of the European Parliament, which has already produced a report on the Commission Proposal, but whose formal reaction is still outstanding. The Council, i.e. the member states in European camouflage, will likewise react.
Money, money, money
The Commission proposed almost doubling the budget of the present Erasmus+ Programme (30 billion Euro, about 26 for education and training), but trebling the number of participants, meaning that the per-capita contributions would go down. Milan Zver, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Erasmus, asked for trebling the budget of Erasmus+. If the legislative game develops like on earlier occasions, the Council will play the miser (but explaining, when returning home from the European capital, that ‘Brussels’ was against a higher investment).Next to the amount of the total programme budget, a crucial question is how it will be distributed over the different sectors of the education and training system. The days when higher education automatically got the lion’s share are over. The sector will need to fight - and lobby intelligently.
Last time around, the programme architecture was changed considerably, from a sector-based to an activity-type approach. This resulted in three ‘key actions’ and produced, especially in the early days, some confusion. Later, the waters calmed. The Commission Proposal of May 2018 signals continuity and evolution rather than revolution. Its motto seems to be: ‘do not rock the boat’.
The promise of simplification stood at the outset of all predecessor programmes since the late 1980s. At the same time, programme end-users - higher education institutions, students and staff - and also national agencies complained about ever-increasing bureaucracy. To simplify something is one of the hardest things to do.
With the stress on continuity, can we expect more of the same? To a degree. But there will also be new programme elements. One novelty is the network of ‘European Universities’, which French President Macron suggested the EU should fund and which will start in the form of a pilot action already in Erasmus+ in 2019. The original idea was that the European Universities would aspire to the ideal of excellence. But excellence in what exactly (research, teaching, the third mission, …)?
Indeed, how could one reconcile the emphasis on excellence in the case of the ‘European Universities’ with the focus of the overall programme on ‘inclusion? For ‘inclusion’ is meant to be one of the underlying rationales of the new Erasmus Programme. What will it mean? It would certainly mean more support targeting poorer or otherwise disadvantaged persons.
There has been one casualty among the programme elements of Erasmus+: the Erasmus+ Master Degree Loans. It seemed a really good idea to offer students without the means for studying a Master programme abroad loans at very favourable pay-back conditions. However, there was not by far enough student demand. This one will enjoy a first-class funeral at the end of Erasmus+.
Our strength: excellent speakers
When it comes to speakers, our standards are clear. Our speakers must be competent on the issues and they must be able to say what they say well. This seminar features high-level personalities from the European Commission, the European Parliament, national governments, ACA member organisations, and stakeholder organisations. In the coming weeks, we will feature many of them individually.
YOU are the VIPs
However well ACA might organise this event, however brilliant our speakers, panellists and discussants may be, they are not the stars of this seminar. The VIPs of this seminar are YOU, the audience. For you, we will do everything we can to make this event informative, practically useful, entertaining and – we dare hope – memorable. YOU, the audience, will be from different backgrounds: representatives of higher education institutions, often international officers or vice-rectors for international affairs. Or you will be from international organisations, such as the EU institutions, the OECD, the UNESCO and the Council of Europe, to name but a few. You will also be from ACA member organisations and like internationalisation agencies. From national and regional governments. We also welcome the delegations from Venus and Mars which have already announced their participation.
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