EP Hearing ‘Erasmus for all’: all sectors deserve equal treatment

27 March 2012

“All current programmes within the Lifelong Learning Programme must be treated equally in the new education programme Erasmus for all”. This was the general statement made by Doris Pack as rapporteur for Erasmus for all in the European Parliament. According to Pack, all programmes are “Erfolgsgeschichten”  with high yield instruments on which we should continue building the future programme. In addition, the EP Hearing on Erasmus for all gave the opportunity for some experts from higher education, school education and the youth sector to voice their opinion. All agreed that changes must be made to the European Commission proposal for Erasmus for all, but the question ‘How to do this?’  appeared to be difficult to answer.

School education
Thomas Spielkamp from the Pädagogische Austauschdienst (PAD), argued that education sectors need to be connected with one another. Schools are linked  with each other through Comenius and this is according to him important to keep in mind. PAD believes that the school sector has been forgotten in the proposal. All actions of Comenius should therefore be continued. The previous programmes were too complex. However, the proposed three actions in the proposal does not automatically mean simplification. PAD is trying to put target groups together that are different. Smaller schools should not compete with higher education. Therefore a specific approach to sectors is needed as also concrete ideas for what should change. The burden on schools should be minimized and schools need to have a clear place in this programme. Schools do not always have large targets, they want to meet other schools and experience cooperation. Therefore account must be taken of the fact that school are not in a position to take full responsibility for large consortiums. Schools like simple approaches and therefore PAD proposes lump sums. In terms of the budget, PAD stated that a large percentage of the  budget should be assigned as a national budget with the national agencies. All schools should be involved in the programme and there is a need to connect the programme with the political agenda. PAD argued that Comenius has a great impact on teachers and schools although one cannot always assess them and quantify them.

Higher Education
Siegbert Wuttig from the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) for higher education first paid attention to the shortcomings of Erasmus, being a lack of attention to geographical coverage, more should be done to improve the quality of mobility and to simplofy administrative burdens. If it is going to be an instrument of real importance, it needs to expand to the 47 countries of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). When looking at Erasmus for all, DAAD welcomes the increase in budget,  a more simplified management and the enhancement of university-business cooperation. Nevertheless, DAAD stated that the proposal is a radical change to the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), with integrated approach that moves away from the sector programmes and discontinues the programmes that have proven their worth. Wuttig mentioned in this regard that a ‘paradigm shift’ is taking place from LLP to Erasmus for all: a loss of clarity exists that will affect the users. In terms of budget, DAAD believes that a fixed budget is important for stability and planning security and that the budget needs to be defined for actions and sectors. With regard to the doctoral programmes, DAAD argued that it is an error that doctoral programmes are transferred to Marie Curie Actions. By means of conclusion,  Wuttig made some recommendations:

  • Make programme a European policy support instrument.
  • Significantly increase the budget to broaden geographical scope. 
  • Keep the proposed action lines. Make programme simple, transparent and user-friendly for the beneficiaries

Third country cooperation for all sectors
Pasi Sahlberg, director general of the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) from Finland, discussed the programme whereby he argues that a country like Finland benefits from cross-sectorial approaches .  An increase of funding welcomed is welcome by CIMO, but there are some shortcomings. CIMO would welcome a better focus on lifelong learning and the programme does not take into account some key challenges Europe faces, such as ageing. In addition, the role of VET is not fully recognized in the proposal and it is also silent about adult learning, neglecting the so-called ‘silver potential’. Equal opportunities should be made available for all pupils for cooperation and mobility regardless of the school they are in. Adequate financing should be given to all sectors. Last but not least, third country cooperation, which is now within the remit of higher education, should be opened to in order for students, youth and adults to establish contacts across European borders and Strategic Partnerships under key activity 2 should be fully decentralized.

European Commission
In reaction to the experts, some MEPS gave their opinion to the programme, arguing amongst other points that a change of paradigm is indeed taking place, but also that the Programme is created for people, not for administration.  Finally the European Commission in the name of Jordi Curell, director Lifelong learning within DG EAC, gave its reaction. Curell vindicated the views he had heard. The Commission made sure for the proposal to be a convincing one:

  • A stronger link is established between programmes and policy development (Europe 2020, ET 2020).       
  • Making sure an increased impact can be established.
  • Simplification for the beneficiaries is needed.

The Commission in addition argued that “with respect to current programme, we cannot do the same anymore”. The proposal is to be based on a holistic approach, that does not differentiate between informal, non-formal en formal learning. Currell said that the Commission does not propose to put different sectors into competition with each other.

Opinion Pack
Finally,  Pack herself voiced a strong opinion, stating that the things people asked for are not there. “Fast alle sind der Meinung dass wir eine gut Kombination brauchen so dass jeder weiss was er wo hat”. According to Pack, things are promised that cannot be promised. The overall aim is to make learners are made European citizens. She paid specific attention to her idea of Comenius Regio that should be implemented in other sectors too.

Timeline
Both the Council and the European Parliament are discussing Erasmus for all. Negotiations take place in 2012 and 2013. Pack will present her working document on Erasmus for all by the end of May.

More information
Website European Commission proposal for Erasmus for all

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