Erasmus failing to provide equal access to education and training

Too many obstacles still prevent students with special needs from participating in international mobility programmes, writes Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

By Ilhan Kyuchyuk

17 Apr 2015

Everyone should be afforded access to education and professional training, as well as real opportunities for further development. Investment in knowledge means investment in Europe’s future job growth and competitiveness. Participating in mobility programmes helps to acquire much-needed skills, benefits employability, self-development and self-assessment, provides life-changing experiences and broadens social networks among our youth. 

Ensuring equal access to education and training and facilitating effective support to people with special needs, is essential in order to fight social exclusion and promote active participation in society and the economy. I place high value on the proposed supplementary financial support for students with special needs who wish to participate in Erasmus+ but are unable to do so without extra funding.

According to statistical data from the commission, during the 2012-2013 academic year only 388 students with special needs received a supplementary grant for Erasmus studies or traineeships. This represents just 0.14 per cent of all Erasmus students and trainees. Although the number has increased compared with previous years it is still extremely low. In this regard, the commission should be doing more to encourage people with special needs to participate in Erasmus+.

"During the 2012-2013 academic year only 388 students with special needs received a supplementary grant for Erasmus studies or traineeships. This represents just 0.14 per cent of all Erasmus students and trainees"

This could be combined with better promotion of the opportunities and support that are available, as many young people are still not aware of them. We must strive for significant progress in the social and educational inclusion of people with special needs. I am certain that facilitating their access to international mobility programmes will be beneficial for their social and professional integration.

Another issue I would like to raise is the bureaucratic obstacles impeding participation in Erasmus+. Student and staff mobility helps people understand and learn from the differences that may otherwise divide us. Academic mobility is also a mechanism for higher education institutions to provide valuable exchange of good teaching practices and methods for foreign staff in destination countries. 

All this is very important, but not easily achievable. Despite the measures that have been undertaken to reduce the bureaucratic obstacles that students face, many still find it too complicated to join the programme, or to complete the paperwork once it has ended. For participants that are not from the EU, the European economic area or Switzerland, coming here for research or study is far more difficult than it should be. 

We must remove these obstacles and make the EU more open. Such mobility benefits the EU and our economy through the circulation of knowledge and ideas. In order to facilitate international mobility streams, the commission should put more effort into tackling the issue of visa requirements, which is a serious bureaucratic obstacle to international mobility.

More fruitful discussion between EU institutions, member states, educational establishments and students is needed in order to exchange views and expectations and overcome existing challenges. There also needs to be better cooperation between host universities and those sending students, so as to improve flows of information. Students still have to deal with unnecessary inconveniences and delays because educational institutions do not sufficiently communicate with one another.

I believe that Erasmus+ affords students a range of benefits and opportunities, and they should be able to access its full potential. It is our duty and responsibility to shine a light on any issues that get in the way of participation in the programme, and seek out solutions.


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