Cuts to Erasmus programme may affect grants

Erasmus students might not receive their grants during the second semester of 2012/2013 due to cuts to the 2012 EU Budget, the European Commission has said.

Eighty-four DCU students are currently abroad for the full academic year, as part of the EU’s student mobility Erasmus programme, and about 20 other students are expected to go abroad during semester 2.

Each Erasmus student is entitled to a mobility grant designed to cover some of the expenses relating to the actual mobility such as flights, rent deposit, language classes and student or union registration fees. Audrey Byrne, Exchange Coordinator in DCU told The College View “the Erasmus funding was never designed to cover living costs”.

Doherty said he is “shocked at this announcement and the affects it may have on Erasmus students”. Speaking to The College View, Doherty said: “I definitely think that these programmes need to be protected, especially for those students who are currently in the system”.

Audrey Byrne told The College View: “DCU has already received 80% of the total allocation for the year 2012/13”, which is €162,983, and estimates to receive the final 20% by February 2013. “In order to receive the final 20% of the total allocated, each institution must have spent at least 70% of the 80% already received”, she explained, and added “DCU is on target to spend the 70% of the 80% already received by the end of November 2012”.

The Head of the European Parliament’s Budget Committee, Alain Lamassoure recently said at a press conference: “The European Social Fund has been in cessation of payments since the beginning of the month and can no longer refund member states.

Next week, it will be the Erasmus student programme’s turn, and by the end of the month the Programme for Research and Innovation will have no money left”.

He blamed the various cuts made to the 2012 EU budget, which was reduced by €4 billion to €129 billion to match austerity measures. To fill a gap that Mr Lamassoure estimates is €10 billion, it is likely that Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski will ask member states for “several billion Euros” extra in the coming weeks.

The European Commission is also preparing a Global Transfer proposal that would transfer “any funds which will not be used to areas of need”. However, this measure would gather less than €500,000, “which is not enough”, the European Commission said.

Students who are abroad for the first semester of 2012/2013 will not have any problems since National Erasmus Agencies received enough funds to cover their grants. However the European Commission said “if the lack of payment persists there might be a problem for students who are abroad during the second semester”.

The European Commission is “confident that the problem will be solved” by the start of semester 2 and have called for prospective students to apply as normal.

However, seven countries – Austria, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden – have refused the commission’s proposal to increase the 2013 EU Budget by €9 billion (6.8%) to €138 billion. Finland, France and Germany even requested a €5 billion cut in spending next year, a decision that could put the Erasmus programme at risk of facing the same problems next year.

Karina Ufert, Chair of the European Students’ Union (ESU), told the AFP that there was a need for “a long-term solution that protects funding for all next generations of Erasmus students”. She also called upon EU states to “recognise the importance of European student mobility programmes while deciding the next multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020”.

Céline Loriou

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