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€16bn for consolidated Erasmus+ programme

European member states have agreed to allocate €16 billion in funding to the new “Erasmus +” programme, which consolidates a range of European Commission (EC) education initiatives, including mobility grants for higher education and vocational training.

"The new programme aims to reach almost double the numbers who currently receive support "

Over four million people should benefit from the programme, which will roll out over the next seven years, and it could almost double the numbers who receive support to study abroad. Minister for Education and Skills in Ireland, Ruairi Quinn, said that the scheme, which offers more practical training, would also be key to tackling youth unemployment.

“With unemployment, particularly amongst young people, at very high levels across Europe, this new programme will have a key role in tackling and resolving the crisis,” he said. Noting that 35% of jobs will be classified as “high-skill” by 2020, he added, “we need to ensure that our young people are equipped to meet the future demands of the labour market”.

“This new programme will have a key role in tackling and resolving the crisis”

The new scheme will bring together all the current EU programmes for education, training and youth. These include  initiatives such as Erasmus, which has supported three million to study at universities abroad since launch, and the life-long learning programmes Lenoardo and Grundtvig. Organisers said the consolidation would improve cooperation between educational institutions, businesses and organisations; policy reform; and student mobility.

Reflecting the growing need for practical experience among young people, the scheme will also increase engagement with the private sector. Sports will also be catered to for the first time through the promotion of grassroots activities.

The British Council, which administers the Erasmus, Comenius and Youth Action programmes in the UK, welcomed the new scheme.

“The new programme aims to reach almost double the numbers who currently receive support for education and training opportunities abroad, between 2014 and 2020,” Ruth Sinclair-Jones, Head of EU Programmes and National Agency Director at the British Council, said.

“The proposal increases the debt level of students that are already struggling with extremely high unemployment”

“This represents a fantastic opportunity for UK participants, especially for our young people, to benefit from a funded international experience and help improve their employability.”

Not everyone was pleased, however. The agreement sees the original budget of €19 billion reduced (although funding in real terms has risen), meaning that at least a million extra people will not benefit. The scheme also provides for a study abroad loan scheme for master’s students, which some warn signals a shift away from state support towards self-funding.

Karina Ufert, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union, said of the scheme: “The proposal increases the debt level of students that are already struggling with extremely high unemployment, risks a brain drain across regions, and above all European institutions have limited control over it because it will be in the hands of financial intermediaries.”

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