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Erasmus programme survives EU budget cuts

Earlier this month, leaders from the European Union agreed upon a common financial framework that includes further funding for the new Erasmus European student exchange programme, ending speculation of whether the scheme, which marked a quarter of a century of student mobility last year, would continue.

"We simply cannot afford to sacrifice future-oriented investments, in education, research or innovation"

Of the €908 billion budget for 2014-2020 passed by the European Council, €19 billion has been allocated for the new “Erasmus for All” programme. Starting from 2014, the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport will all come together under the one scheme.

The budget is less than what the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth had originally asked for, but policy makers say it’s still positive.

The new programme will introduce a loan guarantee scheme for Master’s degree students

“It’s about 14% below our proposal, which means that around 700,000 people will miss out on an experience abroad under the Erasmus for All programme in 2014-20 compared with the commission’s proposal,” Dennis Abbott, the European Commission’s education spokesperson told University World News.

“However, in the current economic climate there are still many positives for education, research and innovation – the figures agreed envisage significant increases in all our programmes compared to the current 2007-13 period,” he added.

Established programmes including Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus and Edulink will be funded under the Erasmus for All scheme from 1 January 2014, providing mobility opportunities for five million students and teachers compared with 2.5 million from 2007-2013.

According to the Education Commission, consolidating the programmes will increase efficiency, make it easier to apply for grants and reduce fragmentation.

In addition to previous support for study abroad, cooperation between institutions and cross-country study policies, the new programme will introduce a loan guarantee scheme for Master’s degree students and 400 “sector skills alliances” to promote collaboration between institutions and businesses.

Universities have also welcomed increased support for science and research under the new “Horizon 2020” programme. A proposed budget of €70.9 billion has been set aside for  research and innovation, an increase on increase on the previous seven-year funding programme, Framework Programme 7, which totalled €55 billion.

A proposed budget of €70.9 billion has been set aside for research and innovation via the Horizon 2020 programme

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said funding for the two programmes was made possible by “modernising the budget” and focusing “on the most pressing concerns”.

“Given today’s economic challenges, focusing on jobs, growth and competitiveness is our top priority. We simply cannot afford to sacrifice future-oriented investments, in education, research or innovation,” he said.

The budget proposals will be now go to the European Parliament for final approval by this summer. The Education Commission says there is a clear willingness to come to an agreement and it is “confident that the Irish Presidency will successfully conclude the negotiations during their presidency” which finishes in June of this year.

Since launching in 1987, the Erasmus programme has sponsored almost three million students to study abroad.

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