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Erasmus+ future is “green and inclusive”

The future of the Erasmus+ program is inclusive and green, according to stakeholders gathered in Brussels to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the EU student exchange program.

Some 59% of those who benefitted from Erasmus+ in 2021 were women. Photo: ESN_Int on Twitter

For 2021, the Eramus+ program had a total budget of €2.9 billion

The event coincided with the release of the Erasmus+ 2021 annual report, in which the four priority areas for the period of 2021-2027 were laid out – inclusion and diversity, environment and climate change, digital transition and democratic participation.

“2021 was a special year for Erasmus+. It marked the beginning of the new program, one that, with almost double the budget,€28 billion, committed to become greener, more digital and more inclusive. I am proud to say that the new Erasmus+ program reflects the needs and wishes of the citizens of Europe and beyond” said Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation, research, culture and youth.

According to the report, some 65,000 participants with fewer opportunities were supported by the program, making up 10% of the total number of participants. This includes those with special needs, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from the outermost regions.

Sabine Verheyen, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education said that this is a “big step forward” for the program but also highlighted that there is more to be done.

According to Juan Rayón González, president of the Erasmus Student Network, the most important thing is to understand the barriers that people face to participate.

“How do we do that? It’s actually very simple. We ask them. We need data, we need assessment, we need qualitative data meaning experiences in a structured way. We need qualitative data, using our services, using our tools and then we need to build on that data to create actions and to create policy changes.”

Credit: Erasmus+ annual report 2021

Some €330.3 million of the 2021 budget was spent on projects supporting the environment and climate change.

Ute Haller-Block, head of unit for Erasmus+ coordination, DG Education and Culture, European Commission, said her vision is of a fully inclusive, fully green program in 15 years.

“This is the one we have to tackle or start to tackle fully now. We have starts of a strategy, but we really have to contribute to the Green Deal by 2050,” said Haller-Block.

“We have to keep mobility because physical encounters are very important, so we have to look into alternatives. Slow travel is one word I’ve heard, and of course new technologies hopefully will be there to also have greener travel.”

Gabriel stated that although the doubled budget for the new program spanning 2021-2027 is welcome news, for her it is more about how many people the program can support and how many opportunities it can provide with this budget.

Credit: Erasmus+ annual report 2021

At the end of 2021, the number of participants in mobility activities since 1987, when Erasmus launched, reached 12.5 million

For the year 2021, Eramus+ had a total budget of €2.9 billion funding around 19,000 projects and including 71,000 organisations and close to 649,000 participants in mobility activities.

Other key findings from the report show that 59% of those who benefitted from Erasmus+ in 2021 were women.

Sophie Beernaerts, head of department Erasmus+ at the European Education and Culture Executive Agency, highlighted that although the four priorities outlined are important, the program must be flexible enough to deal with emerging needs in the coming years.

“We don’t know what the future will be”

“We don’t know what the future will be,” she said.

Beernaerts gave the Ukrainian crisis as an example of the need for such flexibility.

“We really gave a lot of help to educators, professors and learners there. This is something we could not have foreseen,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gabriel applauded the program’s ability to react to the “drastic and unexpected” increase in inflation rates.

“Solidarity is an essential part of who we are, because it is one of our core European values,” said Gabriel.

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