Universities throughout Europe are reporting extensive obstacles in organising mobilities under the 2021/2022 academic year as part of the Erasmus+ programme. These obstacles risk having a significant impact on both students and staff. Detailed information shared by the EUF universities show a perfect storm of factors affecting their international cooperation activities:
- The results of applications of higher education institutions for Erasmus+ mobilities 2021/22 have been released very late (many of them only in September 2021 or even October 2021). Furthermore, grant agreements have been signed with unprecedented delay between Higher Education Institutions and the respective funding National Agencies. This results in substantial and unavoidable delays for transferring grants to students to enable them to travel to their destination and start their studies abroad. Such issues put an increased burden on students from more disadvantaged backgrounds at the precise time the Erasmus programme was meant to become more inclusive and beneficiaries are requested to ensure inclusion in all their actions.
- In addition to this already very difficult situation, when results of applications have been released by the Erasmus+ National Agencies, universities were also confronted with substantial budget cuts ranging from 30% to 50% compared to the 2020/21 funding round (as also documented by the press release issued by the French Rectors’ conference). This is extremely difficult to handle since Higher Education Institutions usually plan and approve student applications for outgoing mobilities on the basis of previous years’ statistics and approved budgets. This funding decrease puts Higher Education Institutions in a situation where student mobility flows have been validated and eventually a much lower budget was approved, de facto shortening or cancelling a substantial proportion of these mobilities. In other countries the cuts are not outright obvious but universities have witnessed significant reductions in the average duration of student mobility, posing considerable difficulties in the management of the awarded scholarships and raising questions about the quality and impact of such actions.
- Whenever possible, Higher Education Institutions are proactively taking extreme steps to plug the gap by identifying internal funding options and resorting to funding remaining from the previous programming period of 2014-2020. However, this results in unequal treatment (e.g. social top-ups grants) between students, since the funding rules between the two programming periods have changed.
Update 18th November
- We commend some Governments and National Authorities (e.g. Ireland) for stepping up in making resources available to mitigate the Erasmus+ funding shortfall;
- Action is urgently needed to ensure all mobile students get grants without further delay. Risks are considerable both for current participants who are abroad and for the reputation of the programme as a whole. As things stand, Erasmus+ is effectively rather less inclusive than before;
- In some countries universities are being asked to fund top-ups in line with new programme rules from own resources, but not all can secure the necessary funds to the extent needed;
- Several of the remedial actions being considered entail an increase of administrative effort and entropy; this is far from the necessary simplification and streamlining stakeholders have pleaded for;
- Much improved communication and coordination towards universities and students is absolutely required from DGEAC and National Agencies.
As the largest university network working towards the betterment of student mobility in Europe, we call on the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council and national authorities to urgently address this matter, making full usage of the mechanisms available to them to mitigate this funding shortfall. Additionally, we urge them to work hand in hand with Higher Education Institutions to ensure they receive timely information on forthcoming developments and to identify the most appropriate solutions for these pressing issues. It is important to prevent this situation from happening again in the future, by ensuring sufficient budget allocation for mobility to meet the heightened ambitions of this programme and its Higher Education Institutional participants.