Europe needs internationalisation, internationalisation needs Europe
Intercultural understanding has always been important, but now more so than ever. Much of the enormous turmoil Europe and the world are facing today has, at least partly, been caused by the refusal to truly accept the differences between cultures and countries.
One of the best ways to promote intercultural understanding is to strengthen the international component in education programmes. When confronted with other cultures and foreign languages at a young age, chances are high that you will cherish this experience throughout your adult life. You will gain intercultural competences, important assets in both your professional life – by participating in the international labour market – and your personal life – by being part of a multicultural society.
Therefore, it is crucial that every pupil, every student and every professional encounters international experience in his or her school or study programme. In this way, they are enabled to become global citizens. I strongly believe that the current stagnation in European cooperation also has to do with anti-international reflexes among many European citizens, urging many politicians to play the national card. I am not saying that by internationalising education all will be fine, but we certainly miss a strong internationalist perspective in the current European debate.
So, Europe needs internationalisation.
But internationalisation also needs Europe. Erasmus and Erasmus+, two of the most popular European programmes ever, are education programmes. Erasmus has a long tradition in international student exchange. There are already three million Europeans with an Erasmus experience, not to mention the one million ‘Erasmus babies’.
Thanks to its large budget, Erasmus+ has become one of the most important and inclusive strategies in giving pupils, students and youngsters international experience. But Erasmus is more than student exchange and also involves partnerships between different institutions, cultures and countries. The European Union has become one of the strongest supporters of internationalising education. Internationalisation needs Europe.
And exactly because of that, it is such a pity that many schools and universities decide not to participate in Erasmus+. Not because they don’t believe in its purpose, but because of the level of EU bureaucracy involved in, for example, submitting a simple project proposal. You have to go through 509 pages of instructions before you can start putting together a proposal, which will also consist of 40 pages. Furthermore, two years into the Erasmus+ programme, central technical and IT support remain lamentable.
Along with our colleagues from other countries, we are continuously trying to address this issue in the meetings with the representatives of the European Commission, but still without satisfying results. Incidents and imperfections like these are a threat to the popularity of Erasmus+ and, as such, to Europe’s education ambitions.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Education Commissioner Mr Tibor Navracsics and, a few days later, his new Director-General, Ms Martine Reicherts. They both seemed committed to solving the bureaucracy and IT issues of Erasmus+. So, Mr Navracsics and Ms Reicherts, we are counting on you!