Friday

3rd Feb 2023

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us