Thursday

18th Apr 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

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.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us