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EU student exchange ‘fails to support poorer students’


Green MEPs say bigger Erasmus+ budget needed as grants are too small for less advantaged

Two MEPs are pushing for an increase in spending on the EU’s Erasmus+ academic mobility programme, claiming that its grants are too small to properly support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“A student who wants to go study in another European country [through Erasmus+] must lead the lifestyle of a Franciscan priest, who carefully counts his every cent, every outing, every meal, rendering his life more isolated because he will always have to brutally balance social life with basic necessities,” Romanian MEP Nicolae Ștefănuță and his German colleague Rasmus Andresen wrote in an opinion piece for the news website EU Observer.

“The Erasmus+ experience for students coming from more modest backgrounds is a real challenge…studying abroad becomes a struggle that deviates from the programme’s original objective, as students are constantly under financial pressure.”

The fortunate few

The two MEPs, who are both in the Green political group, claim that Erasmus+ favours “more fortunate students”, and that “the time has come to reconsider the programme and address the inequality embedded in it”.

Erasmus+ has a 2021-27 budget of €26.2 billion, which is nearly twice that for 2014-20 but still not enough, according to Ștefănuță and Andresen.

They suggest a bigger budget so the programme can give grants based on students’ actual living expenses, and that a planned review of the EU’s 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework offers an opportunity to increase funding.

 “We call upon the Commission to prepare changes so that in the 2024 university year, students would no longer be afraid to embark on an Erasmus+ [exchange] and experience Europe as inclusive as it should be,” said Ștefănuță and Andresen.

They have started a petition in Romania, called Erasmus+ Equality, seeking support from students in the country who think the programme should cover their needs while studying abroad. The pair hope to roll it out more broadly before presenting it to the European Commission.