Erasmus+: Study Abroad Scholarships and Much More | Top Universities
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Erasmus+: Study Abroad Scholarships and Much More

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Laura Bridgestock

Updated Mar 05, 2016
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The start of the new year marks the initiation of the EU’s new funding program for education, training, young people and sport. Named Erasmus+, the scheme replaces the former Erasmus initiative (which provided study abroad scholarships and support for academics and teachers, as well as internships and training) – as well as incorporating a group of other EU funding schemes relating to education, training and development. By bringing all these earlier schemes together under one initiative, the aim is to make funding more efficient, providing support for even more participants.

In particular, the European Commission has highlighted the importance of the initiative at a time when unemployment, particularly among young people, remains high across much of Europe. In its guide to the new Erasmus+ system, it sets out the aim of supporting participating countries’ “efforts to efficiently use the potential of Europe’s human and social capital, while confirming the principle of lifelong learning”.

For the initial seven year period, from the start of 2014 to the end of 2020, Erasmus+ has a budget of almost €4.8 billion (about US$6.5bn). This is overseen by the European Commission, but largely implemented by national agencies within participating countries. All EU member states are automatically included, and countries included in the EEA agreement are also eligible to participate, as is Switzerland. Other nations around the world may also participate as ‘partner countries’ in some parts of Erasmus+.

Supporting student exchange programs

The Erasmus brand has to date been most closely associated with the provision of study abroad scholarships through funding for student exchange programs, and learning mobility remains one of the key focus areas within Erasmus+. Students can apply for grants either to cover living costs while they spend time studying part of their degree at a university in a different European country, or while completing a relevant work placement abroad. The amount varies depending on the on the average living costs in the destination country and the participants’ home country, with additional support available for those from disadvantaged backgrounds

As well as university students, the Erasmus+ also provides mobility support for trainees, apprentices, volunteers, academics, teachers, youth workers, and other professionals involved in the education sector. Other types of mobility supported by Erasmus+ include:

  • Youth Exchanges – these allow young people from different countries to live together for up to 21 days, participating in a work and training program.
  • European Voluntary Service – this supports people aged 17-30 to volunteer full-time in a country within or outside the EU for up to 12 months.
  • Youth worker training – this supports the professional development of youth workers through training or work placement schemes.

In most instances, support is provided both through funding to help cover travel and living costs, as well as organizational support and language learning support.

Supporting language learning

One key aspect of Erasmus+ which is being highlighted as a new focus is language learning. Those participating in student exchange programs or other mobility schemes will now be offered language learning support both before and during their time abroad, through an online service (to be gradually implemented). This will be available for all Erasmus+ participants engaging in mobility schemes lasting two months or longer, providing an initial language competency assessment, an online language course, and a second assessment to measure progress made.

Supporting joint master’s degrees

As well as supporting student exchange programs, Erasmus+ also promotes student mobility by providing funding for joint master’s degrees (JMDs). These are master’s programs developed and delivered by a group of collaborating universities within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Erasmus+ provides funding to the organizations involved, and also offers a number of full scholarships for JMD students, available both for applicants from within and beyond the EU. This scheme aims to foster innovation and collaboration within European higher education, while also providing study abroad scholarships for talented students from around the world.

Supporting strategic partnerships

Erasmus+ also provides funding for various types of collaboration in the fields of higher education and training. These come under a number of different categories, including ‘Strategic Partnerships’ and ‘Sector Skills Alliances’. The first of these refers to collaborations at local, national and international level which aim to support the development and sharing of innovative practices in education. Key focus areas include: aligning education with labor market demands, strategic use of ICT and new technologies, improving access and equal opportunities within education, and increasing provision of career guidance and employability preparation.

Meanwhile Sector Skills Alliances aim to tackle skills shortages in the labor market by developing relevant vocational education and training programs. Here, key focus sectors are: textiles & clothing, commerce, advanced manufacturing, ICT, environmental technologies and the cultural and creative sectors.

Finally, Erasmus+ also has funding available for non-profit sports events involving participants from at least 12 different Erasmus+ member countries. This is overseen by the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, with funding applications open to any organization within an Erasmus+ member country which is involved in sports at any level.