The EU’s most popular program paid a heavy price during the Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed Europe for the past four months. At the end of February, when the disease struck the continent, almost 142,000 people were on Erasmus + mobility in Europe, and 1,050 were living an experience abroad within the framework of the European Solidarity Corps.
A shaken semester
Fortunately, not all were affected by the health crisis, which was not as severe everywhere or at the same time. Nothing has changed, in fact, for 25% of beneficiaries not affected by the containment measures, underlines a survey carried out by Erasmus + (1). But among the remaining 75%, three out of four young people were forced to return home. Of those who stayed, 19% did so because of the constraints on their return.
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In the end, the study shows that 36% of students and interns have given up on their experience, while 22% simply suspended it while waiting to be able to resume. Modern communications have played their role as shock absorbers well: 42% have been able to extend their semester or internship “Through distance learning or teleworking”.
The back-to-school puzzle
The rest is more uncertain. In preparation for the start of the new academic year, Laure Coudret-Laut, director of the Erasmus + France Agency, ensures that there will be “Possible departures”. While some anticipate a second wave in October-November, the European Commission has nevertheless announced that Erasmus + learners will be able to participate in “Hybrid mobility” which combine virtual activities and physical experience abroad.
When asked about the advice they could give to their peers wishing to leave, those who have already experienced an Erasmus under confinement are a minority who recommend this formula (31%). They would rather recommend postponing their project after the return to normal (55%).
The 2020-2021 Season is all the more uncertain as it will be heckled by Brexit. Across the Channel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has still not guaranteed continued British participation in the program, while the status quo, maintained under the transition period, ends at the end of the year. Until then, Erasmus experiences can in principle continue.
But the horizon is darkening. Recently the British Ministry of Education announced that it was preparing for 2021 “A wide range of options for future exchange programs, including a national alternative to Erasmus”. Each year, nearly 17,000 young British people benefit from European mobility, and some 32,000 Europeans cross the Channel to study there. At the end of June, England (but not the other regions of the United Kingdom) warned in anticipation of the start of the 2021 academic year: students from the European Union will be placed on the same regime as other foreign students, with higher tuition fees .
In the long term, Erasmus + nevertheless expects better days, with a strong increase in mobility. In its budget forecasts, the European Commission indeed forecasts an increase of at least 90% in funding for 2021-2027. It is now up to the heads of state and government to confirm them by the fall.