Erasmus+, the European Union exchange programme, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The British Council's Ruth-Sinclair Jones crunches the numbers and explains why now is the perfect time to consider taking part.
1. It's not just for study abroad
People may think that Erasmus+ is just for studying at universities abroad. But half of the Erasmus+ funding goes to further education, schools, adult education and youth organisations for young people and staff to spend a period of time abroad.
UK schools will get more than €21 million in European Union Erasmus+ funding this year, up from €16.5 million in 2016. This will pay for about 300 projects led by schools, academies and local authorities. Most of the money will go to school partnership projects between schools in the UK and other European countries on topics like language-learning, tackling early school-leaving, boosting attainment and inclusion in the classroom.
For example, one Cardiff primary school is working with a Spanish school on a programme to improve attainment and attendance from the local Gypsy Traveller community. The Traveller children lead their own activities and take part in creative projects and sports sessions. Now their school attendance is higher than the average local rate.
2. Lots of people learn with businesses, not just universities
From 2014 to 2016, a third more people in further education trained in Europe through Erasmus+. The majority of these were apprenticeships in European companies or vocational institutions.
Leicester College, for instance, sent students to Spanish businesses in Seville, where they learnt electrical maintenance and construction skills for up to six weeks.
3. The exchanges don't have to be in Europe
Half of the Erasmus+ budget goes to higher education. This year, it will fund more than 15,000 UK students studying or training abroad in Europe, and around 2,000 academic staff training or teaching across Europe too.
Erasmus+ funds are also available for UK higher education institutions to exchange students and staff with institutions outside the European Union. Higher education institutions have taken up most of this money, but compared with their counterparts in Germany, for example, they have been slower to partner with institutions in the Western Balkans (from Albania to Serbia) and countries neighbouring Europe to the east (from Armenia to Ukraine).
This might be because they are worried about risk, or because they are at an early stage in building their connections with those countries. Budgets exist for all these regions, giving UK higher education institutions a high chance of success. Funding is also available – but on a more competitive basis – for exchanges with countries like China, India and the USA.
Around 70 institutions are active in this international field. In 2017, the University of Glasgow won the largest chunk of this funding. They were awarded more than €1 million to exchange staff and students with universities in Brazil, Chile, China, India, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, South Africa and Thailand.
4. Brexit hasn't stopped people wanting to apply
This was the first full funding year following the Brexit vote, but any concern about drop-off in interest has failed to materialise. UK organisations are still applying in the thousands, and European partners are still keen to partner with the UK.
The UK government will guarantee continuing payment of the full amount of Erasmus+ funding in 2018 while the UK is still an EU member state, even for projects that last beyond the UK’s exit from the EU.
5. Even more funds and grants will be available next year
Next year, the total UK budget available for Erasmus+ will rise to more than £140 million. Even more applicants than before will receive grants. New online forms should make the application process easier.
The UK Erasmus+ schools budget will also increase by around 40 per cent for school exchange partnerships. Pupils will be able to go on shorter, three-day exchanges with European schools, as well as year-long exchanges, and training for school staff.
There are other changes too, like the proposed change from youth volunteering to the new European Solidarity Corps, which, amongst other things, is intended to create a pool of young people to help in disaster areas.
As part of an EU-wide campaign, the British Council, which acts as the national agency for Erasmus in the UK, is holding an exhibition in London at 10 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2BN, and online to celebrate 30 years of UK participation in Erasmus+. The exhibition runs from 10 October to 26 January 2018.
2018 funding deadlines for Erasmus+ will be announced by the end of October and a number of information sessions for potential applicants are being held around the UK.