Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

Focus

EU student exchange programme outdated, says founder

The EU needs to upgrade its 22-year old student exchange programme and move towards more cutting-edge educational policies, one of its founders told this website.

Established in the late 1980s, the Erasmus programme has seen some 2 million students spend a semester in another European country and get their studies recognised back home.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Erasmus student exchange programme is over 20 years old (Photo: Flickr)

The European Commission proposal initially met resistance in France, Germany and the UK, who were unwilling to spend money on a community-funded student exchange programme in parallel to their existing national schemes.

One of the advocates of the project was French activist Franck Biancheri, founder of a pan-European student network (AEGEE), who managed to convince the then French president, Francois Mitterand, to throw his weight behind the exchange scheme.

But now Mr Biancheri has grown critical of what he says is the inertia that has taken over the programme.

"Erasmus was new twenty years ago, so it's extremely old as an educational programme nowadays," he told EUobserver in a phone interview.

In his view, the scheme, which costs €440 million a year, should move beyond simply facilitating students exchange to accommodating the more pressing needs of the enlarged European Union.

"We need to produce young managers trained to work throughout the EU, at ease in several languages and community law," he said.

Another branch of the programme should focus on democracy and facilitate short-term exchanges of young Europeans. There is a need for "more civic oriented" actions, to see what students think and expect from Europe as young citizens.

The classic six-month funded scheme should then gradually be given back to member states and regions, Mr Biancheri proposed.

"The EU programme should evolve to cutting-edge educational policies, responding to the Union's current needs," he stressed.

He sees a role for European student organisations such as AEGEE in pushing for such an educational reform at community level. It is important for students to make their voice heard, he argues, particularly on a demographically ageing continent where pension system reforms are more likely to bring votes than student programmes.

EU leadership problem

However, the French activist admitted this is a difficult task due to the current "lack of leadership" at European level for EU projects.

"At that time, there were leaders like Francois Mitterand, Helmut Kohl, Jacques Delors, Margaret Thatcher, and we managed to push for the Erasmus programme. But now 90 percent of the leaders have no interest in similar projects," he said.

Mr Biancheri spoke disparagingly of the 1968 'baby boomers' now in power, who were never interested in Europe in their youth, but rather in opposing US policies and "flower power."

Mediocrity has become the "leitmotiv in EU leadership" and the newer generations have failed to shake up the system, he said.

"I hope the next generation of leaders from eastern Europe will change the system. But it is not yet clear if they are really young in mind or just age."

See more on European education in EUobserver's special focus section

EU interns to rebel against unpaid work

Young people will gather in Brussels on Monday to protest against hundreds of unpaid traineeships offered by the EU institutions each year.

Data hole in EU plan for youth jobs

EU commission wants to spend another €2 billion on creating jobs for young people, but lack of data on who gets what from the scheme poses questions.

Opinion

The 89ers and the battle against populism

It falls to the Europeans who were born around 1989 and grew up in a peaceful Europe to build a fresh new vision for the EU that transcends the ideological, educational and national cleavages of the past.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen party in new EU fraud allegations
  2. May to end rights of EU nationals after Article 50 triggered
  3. Nato warns against Armenia-Azerbaijan 'escalation'
  4. EU: No military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh war
  5. EU adopts visa-free brake mechanism
  6. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  7. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  8. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFA Deadly Journey for Children: The Migration Route From North Africa to Europe
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  4. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  6. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  7. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  8. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  9. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  10. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen