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Erasmus+ takes centre stage

By Matt Salusbury and Rafaela Peteanu

Previously known as Erasmus for All, Erasmus+ will replace the numerous European Commission grant funding programmes such as Erasmus, Leonardo, Comenius and Grundtvig, and Youth in Action – all existing components of the Lifelong Learning Programme – and merge them into one streamlined super-programme.

Added to Erasmus+ will be the international cooperation programmes currently outside the Lifelong Learning Programme. These include Erasmus Mundus, Tempus (for the modernisation of higher education in eastern Europe, central Asia, the western Balkans and the Mediterranean) and the various EU educational exchanges with industrialised countries. Also added to the mix will be two new strands currently funded from different sources, youth and sport.

Erasmus+ will be available to all learners and trainers through any public or private body active in education, training, youth and sport. It will support formal and non-formal learning experiences and activities across all sectors, with a €19 billion (£16.2 billion) budget up to 2020, benefiting an estimated five million people and 115,000 institutions.

The European Commission Education and Training website states that ‘target beneficiaries’, those who can apply for grants, won’t change. But some – as yet unnamed – activities will be reduced or discontinued, or transferred to other funding streams such as the European Social Fund. Grant-supported work placements for ‘mobility of people who are already on the job market’, currently part of Leonardo, is given as an example of an activity that will leave Erasmus’s remit and transfer to the social fund.

Erasmus+ will be open to all EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, EU candidate countries and ‘pre-accession’ countries, including Turkey and the western Balkans. And it will fund beneficiaries in non-EU countries, mostly ‘neighbourhood countries’, for some activities such as study, training and youth activities that take place within the EU. (The neighbourhood countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria and Tunisia.)

However, this is all – at time of going to press – still just a proposal which is ‘subject to change based on ... negotiations’ between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. As we go to press, Erasmus+ has yet to be formally adopted. British Council (BC) director for European programmes Ruth Sinclair-Jones told the Gazette this was expected in October or November. (The BC and Ecrorys are current UK Erasmus+ national agencies, and Sinclair-Jones is optimistic about the BC being confirmed as a UK national agency from 2014.)

We do know with certainty that Erasmus+ will be based around three ‘key actions’, rather than sectors of education as before. The current sub-programmes Leonardo (work experience), Grundtvig (adult education), Erasmus (higher education) and Comenius (primary and secondary education, including EFL teachers) will be replaced with the key actions (see below for more details on what they are likely to include).

In addition to the key actions, there are two new components, Youth and Sport, each with its own budget. The plan is for them to be integrated into Erasmus+. There’s even less information on exactly what Youth in Action will look like. So far it seems to involve ‘helping people to develop their skills and to improve their chances on the labour market’ with an emphasis on youth volunteering projects. There may be opportunities for work experience providers to capitalise on Youth in Action when more details are known.

Will we still be able to recognise activities within Erasmus+ by old names such as Leonardo, Comenius and so on? Sinclair-Jones told us, ‘There isn’t a final position on this at the European level’; these names ‘would still be available to be used as branding’ conditional on the anticipated European Parliament autumnal sign-off. This appears to contradict the European Commission’s Education and Training website, whose FAQ has the question, ‘Why has the Commission decided to stop using existing names of mobility programmes such as Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius and Grundtvig?’

The criteria for applications haven’t been published yet, beyond the announcement that universities that want to participate in Erasmus+ have to (as before) get themselves an Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE) if they want a piece of the action. The deadline has already passed to apply for a charter for the academic year 2014–15 (see our links list below).

Erasmus+ also brings to the table two new elements: a loan guarantee scheme for masters students for study abroad, and the creation of 400 ‘knowledge alli ances’ and ‘sector skills alliances’. These would be partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses, and between education and training centres and businesses, respectively.

With deadlines rapidly approaching for applications for some Erasmus+ 2014 grants – 17 September for some Grundtvig in-service training money, and not long after that for early 2014 Grundtvig study visits – how can applicants apply for Erasmus+ grants?

Assuming the European Parliament’s formal adoption of Erasmus+ goes according to plan, applications will then open for Erasmus+ 2014 funding. There will be new application forms according to Sinclair-Jones, but the new programme will be a ‘continuation’, and applicants will probably be able to find what they’re looking for under the old Comenius, Leonardo, etc. headings, at least temporarily. Whatever names and criteria are used to differentiate the various bits of Erasmus+, there will be information available that will ‘make clear which parts are relevant to schools’ and to other sectors and activities, she added.