BRUSSELS – The Erasmus Impact Study brings evidence of the need to continue to improve funding schemes and implement strategies to widen access to mobility programmes in higher education. The European Commission presented the findings of this report on 22 September.
Although student mobility has been increasing over the past years and the amount of students from a lower socioeconomic background has increased proportionally, mobility still remains a privilege of the few.. According to the survey, financial reasons constitute the biggest obstacle for mobility for more than fifty per cent of non-mobile students. This can for example be due to uncertainty about the costs of the study abroad or insufficient financial support. More than twenty per cent of the students claimed that the supporting grant would be insufficient to cover the costs.
Some worrying observations applied also to certain countries participating in the Erasmus programme. A majority of the outgoing Erasmus students from Spain is for example just supplemented with half of the average monthly support. Spanish students received €143 monthly grant, compared to Erasmus average of €272. More than 33 thousand students from Spain participated in mobility programmes in the last academic year.
“Many students refuse to file in the applications for the mobility programmes, because the financial support will not be enough to cover their living expenses abroad,” says Erin Nordal, Vice-Chairperson of the European Students’ Union. “We need to provide additional funding for student mobility in order to increase the accessibility of the programme. It is extremely important in order to increase the participation of students from underrepresented groups.”
Barriers to mobility
Education and socio-economic background, age and special needs are also factors that influence the students’ decision on whether they should go abroad. A majority of mobile students come from backgrounds where their parents received higher education themselves. Eighty per cent of all mobile students are between 21 and 26 years old. Other age groups are merely represented. Only 0,1 per cent of all participants of Erasmus mobility programme are students with disabilities. The new Erasmus+ programme offers improved opportunities for students with disabilities, but the Erasmus Impact Study brings additional evidence of the need for a long-term strategy to ensure accessibility to the Erasmus programme for all students.
Interestingly, students also still claim that one of the largest barriers is a lack of information about the Erasmus programme. Problems with the recognition of academic qualifications and uncertainty about the quality of the programmes are also mentioned.
“All students, regardless of their background should be able to take part in mobility programmes. The results of this study should encourage the EU, member states and the European Higher Education Area to take actions to ensure that the mobility programmes are accessible and inclusive. We also need to address the quality of mobility programmes and keep working on the automatic recognition of academic qualifications,” emphasises Nordal.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.