2017 is the year of the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, renamed Erasmus + for the 2014-2020 programming. This program, in a Europe considered in crisis, is the one with the most favorable opinions and one of the best known (Study TNS Sofres) among the Europeans, and is constantly evolving.
An expanding field of action
As early as 1984, the Member States wanted to set up a European university cooperation. This cooperation, intended only for teachers by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, will be opened to students in 1987 with the launch of the Erasmus programme. 3,244 students made an exchange that year. The number of students leaving for a neighboring country has grown steadily from year to year, surpassing that of teachers. These exchanges are currently possible in 33 States (the 28 Member States as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and other partnerships are possible with the rest of the world. This component of the Programme has promoted the equivalence of diplomas (facilitated by the LMD system), the promotion of mobility, etc.
But Erasmus is much more than just an exchange programme: it has been opened to internship stays for all types of public (students, work-study participants, young people outside the education system, professionals), to cooperation between actors in education and training, civil society, or from socio-economic sectors, and sports cooperation. Thus, 5 million Europeans have benefited from one of these programmes so far, including 4 million students.
The budget: the sinews of war
Both the Erasmus programme and the European Social Fund have almost been in default due to a drop in Member States’ contributions to the European budget. Fortunately, this flagship programme of the European Commission has been saved thanks to an extension of hard-won funding. Its maintenance is not acquired.
Following Brexit, some UK universities with significant contributions from the Erasmus + Programme fear a budget cut based on the UK’s position in this programme.
The “Erasmus generation”: the best defense against the dismantling of the EU?
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Erasmus, an Erasbus travelled across France to inform about the many opportunities offered, including the European Voluntary Service (EVS) which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. This component enables young people aged between 17 and 30 years old to carry out missions of general interest (socio-cultural activities, environmental protection, assistance to people in difficulty, sports, media and information for young people, etc.) abroad. Many people say that their exchange or voluntary service has fostered their socio-professional integration and strengthened their sense of belonging to a common European identity.
Can these experiences in this Programme strengthen the living together and prevent division between peoples? Is the Erasmus + programme a bulwark against growing populism? Will the Member States and the European Commission give the budget the programme needs to meet its challenges?