The European Commission announced earlier this month that it was adopting an amending budget to enable it to meet its legal obligations towards beneficiaries of EU funds.
The fall out of this move is that initiatives such as the Erasmus programme which need an additional funding are at risk of having to substantially reduce the number of places offered to students or to cut their level of grants and is expected to hit students from disadvantaged backgrounds the hardest.
With this in mind, personalities from across the EU have signed an open letter to EU Heads of State and Government in support of the threatened Erasmus student exchange programme. Signatories representing every Member State of the EU made known their support. They include the Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, the president of FC Barcelona Sandro Rosell, Mick Galwey, former Irish rugby captain and Nobel Prize winner Professor Christopher Pissarides among others.
According to a spokesperson representing the group: “The letter warns that unless the 2012 and 2013 EU budgets are sufficient to meet pledges already made to students on the basis of previously agreed commitments, thousands could miss out on a potentially life-changing experience.”
The threat to the programme comes at a tough time for many European students as unemployment rises among the 15 to 24-year-olds in the EU.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, welcomed the publication of the letter. “The Erasmus programme has been changing lives and opening minds for 25 years. Long may that continue! Young people have had to bear the brunt of the crisis. They need our support more than ever now. I am proud and moved that so many people, from different walks of life, have come forward to declare their support for Erasmus.”
The Epoch Times spoke with a number of students who have availed of the erasmus programme and all have had positive words to say about it.
If I had to describe Erasmus in three words: Best year ever!
- Kate Moriaty, Irish law student from Trinity College Dublin
Ms Karen Donnelly an Irish law student at Trinity College Dublin, studied in Mainz, Germany. Karen said she profited from her time abroad. “It is good to live in a different country for a while and experience a different culture … I would encourage others to use the programme, if they enjoy travelling.” Karen sais that while on the programme in Europe she made use of the ease of travel across the continent and visited Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Many of the students said they enjoyed their time and learnt a lot about other cultures, made friends in foreign countries as well as improving language skills.
Tatjana Milijkovic a law student from German spent her Erasmus Year at Trinity College Dublin.
She said “it was one of the best years of my life. I also profited from it, simply because this experience was inimitable and because it brought me further in terms of life experience, self reliance and social contacts but above all because of my english skills I would not miss this year. Furthermore, I can say that I also gained valuable experiences for my academic education.”
Kate Moriaty, Irish law student from Trinity College Dublin also studied in Mainz at the Johannes Gutenberg University for her year abroad. “I profited greatly from my experience and would recommend everyone to go on Erasmus. It changes your outlook on life. There are so many memorable experiences, the best were the people…I have made friends for life from all over the world. If I had to describe Erasmus in three words: Best year ever! “
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, ERASMUS is the most successful student exchange programme in the world. Each year, more than 230 000 students study abroad thanks to the Erasmus programme. It also offers the opportunity for student placements in enterprises, university staff teaching and training, and it funds co-operation projects between higher education institutions across Europe.
Erasmus became part of the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme in 2007, covering new areas such as student placements in enterprises (transferred from the Leonardo da Vinci Programme), university staff training and teaching for business staff.
With additional reporting by Robert Rook.
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