How has the pandemic affected the 170,000 students participating in the Erasmus+ programme or the European Solidarity Corps, and how can the EU help?
Education has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The closure of universities and travel restrictions complicate the situation for participants in cross-border mobility programmes such as Erasmus+ student exchanges and the European Solidarity Corps.
Currently, 165,000 young people across Europe are participating in an Erasmus exchange and 5,000 more in voluntary projects.
Erasmus students during COVID-19*:
- 25% of student exchanges were cancelled due to the pandemic.
- 37.5% of the students experienced at least one major problem related to their exchange (e.g. could not go home, accommodation problems).
- Half of the students whose programme continued have moved on to online classes.
- 34 % have chosen partial online classes or postponed a part of them.
(* Source: Erasmus Student Network)
To reduce the negative impact on young people who volunteer or participate in Erasmus+, the European Commission has said that it will make the programmes as flexible as legally possible.
It has recommended that the National Agencies, which are responsible for managing study exchanges, should invoke “force majeure”, which would allow them to assess the possibility of approving additional costs up to a maximum grant amount, and to postpone planned activities by 12 months.
Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education has asked the European Commission to do everything possible to provide support, clear information and reassurance to participants. In a letter to European Commissioner for Youth and Education Mariya Gabriel on 15 April, MEPs asked her to ensure that:
- maximum flexibility is applied, in particular, to help those who have had to return to their home countries for security reasons.
- all exceptional costs related to COVID-19 are reimbursed.
- exchange students and participants in the European Solidarity Corps retain their status.
- exchange students do not lose the academic year and can obtain ECTS credits through distance learning agreements.
European Solidarity Corps
- Created in 2018 to replace the European Voluntary Service.
- It aims to give young people the opportunity to volunteer or work on projects in their country or abroad.
- It aims to help vulnerable communities and individuals across Europe by bringing together young people who want to build a more inclusive society.