Monday

23rd Oct 2017

Opinion

Erasmus – little more than an EU-subsidised party?

  • Too much of a party culture in Erasmus? (Photo: Didier Misson)

With the European elections fast approaching it is time to consider the policy changes we want from the next five years.

Although the new Erasmus+ is barely starting life, the elections mean that it is time to look into the next negotiations about Erasmus, starting in 2017.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

While the most recent reforms did manage to increase access to and funding for the programme, they did not, however, address some of the fundamental structural flaws that the current Erasmus programme faces.

Both of us have spent or are spending a semester abroad studying through the Erasmus programme. Dalia is currently studying at NOVA School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, Portugal, while Viktor spent his last semester studying at Vilnius University, Lithuania. While Erasmus was and continues to be one of the best experiences of our lives, it has also made us question the actual benefits of the Erasmus programme.

The problem might best be captured by a comment that a fellow Erasmus student made when Viktor was studying for a group project together with some local students:

“Come on man, you are Erasmus! It’s time to party!”

EU-subsidised party

While the comment itself does not seem harmful, it is revealing. Being on Erasmus nowadays has very little to do with actually studying and engaging with the local students. Instead it has become an EU-subsidised party in a foreign country.

The way that we read the Erasmus Charter it has two main objectives: one is to increase the quality of research and education within the European Higher Education Area; the other is to foster mobility within Europe. However, the lack of sanctions within the Charter has created an unhealthy culture that to a large extent has decoupled the Erasmus students from their surrounding communities and the higher education institution (HEI) that hosts them.

At most HEIs, Erasmus students, along with other international students, are cramped together in international housing without the possibility of interacting with local students.

In most places, Erasmus student are only admitted into a restricted number of electives. These courses are designed for local students and do not take into account the diversity within the class. Instead of promoting intercultural dialogue to strengthen the learning experience, they end up isolating one part of the class from the other.

The programme has also been caught in a bad spiral combining an unhealthy ‘Erasmus culture’ and a lack of academic requirements. Erasmus is being communicated as a programme of cultural rather than academic exchange where all the students are considered equal in terms of academic evaluation.

Moreover, it is common that Erasmus students are usually introduced to the local night life first, with very little emphasis placed on local culture.

Too few academic requirements

The unhealthy party culture is, to a large extent, the result of too few academic requirements being placed on the students.

The institutions do not place these requirements on the students because they fear that it will create a reputation as a place that fails students who then risk having to study more when they return to their home universities. This in turn leads to the party culture, because the students have few or no responsibilities.

So, where are we now – has Erasmus fallen short? To a large extent, yes.

There is an urgent need to address the fundamental structural challenges that we are starting to experience with the programme because unfortunately, the main goals of Erasmus have not been achieved.

First of all, the issue about the unhealthy ‘Erasmus culture’ has to be addressed. The primary responsibility of this lies within the local institutions and the local branches of Erasmus Students’ Network.

A larger emphasis has to be placed on local history and culture during the introduction week. The courses and housing at the institutions also need to be reorganised in a way that they foster interaction between the local and international students.

The institutions also have to start placing an actual work load on the students; requiring the students to make an investment if they want to be able to pass their studies. The institutions need to have an incentive in the Erasmus Charter to do this; otherwise it is simply too tempting for students to take a free ride which jeopardises the quality of the entire system.

Strengthening the link between the universities and local and international students will also increase the Erasmus students’ ties to and understanding of the specific country. A student cannot be expected to settle in a country or disseminate information about it if all they know is the local nightlife.

These are all changes that are easy to achieve, but require both the EU and the institutions to start thinking of quality and mobility in new ways.

Quality and mobility in education is not only about handing out a grant, it is about the unique experience that the individual has to unfold its potential within.

Viktor Groenne is a student from Denmark. Dalia Miklaseviciute is a student from Lithuania.

Focus

Students should vote for pro-Erasmus MEPs

Students in the EU who love Erasmus should vote twice: once for their party, and once for the MEPs in their party who support the exchange scheme.

EU plans to increase Erasmus grants

The European Commission is considering giving more money to students participating in the Erasmus student exchange programme, a move expected to increase the number of students taking part in the programme.

In defence of the Erasmus scheme

It is not surprising that the Erasmus student exchange programme is being eyed up for cuts but it is a good investment, says Richard Laming

EU student programme hits record popularity

The EU’s student exchange programme Erasmus funded the studies of nearly 270,000 students in 2012/3, a record 15,000 more than previous year, the European Commission has said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement