Europe needs Erasmus+ more than ever
By Jan Palmowski
These are tough times for Erasmus+. Students have returned home early from their semesters abroad. The uncertainty about when we will be able to travel again means there will be few Erasmus+ students going abroad in the next academic year.
We are a long way from when Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in her first speech before the European Parliament, backed MEPs’ call to treble the Erasmus+ budget, from €15 billion to €45bn in the next Multiannual Financial Framework .
The last unsuccessful proposal of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, envisaged a comparatively modest budget increase of 40 per cent, to €21.2bn. Even that now appears optimistic.
We are heading into a period of financial austerity after the coronavirus-driven damage to the global economy, when all expenditure must prioritise the essential. Our lives are dominated by the need for social distancing, and we are learning how to establish and maintain relationships online.
Why prioritise a programme devoted to physical mobility and exchange? Because the current crisis strengthens the arguments for the European Education Area, for which Erasmus+ is the principal tool.
Coronavirus is reshaping the relationship between the physical and the digital. In universities, we are developing new ways to support students online. This will surely transform how we support mobility in the future.
Universities have tackled the learning curve of putting all their teaching and administration online in days. Post Covid-19, nobody will need convincing that digital higher education is here to stay. But online teaching is no panacea. It suffers from inequality of access, is hindered by differences in connectivity and requires appropriate pedagogies.