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Improving the inclusion measures of the Erasmus + programme

Laurence Farreng MEP at EDP Council

In her report adopted in the European Parliament last week, French MEP Laurence Farreng (Mouvement Démocrate) calls for: improved financial resources for Erasmus + participants, more support for teachers and accompanying persons and better access to reliable data for those with fewer opportunities. Interview.

Your report to improve the inclusion measures of the Erasmus + programme has been adopted in the European Parliament. What were your findings?

More than 10 million people have benefited from Erasmus + since its launch in 1987. However, since its creation, the programme has evolved considerably and has opened up to apprentices, secondary school students, college students, adults in training, teachers, job seekers, etc. Over the past 35 years, Erasmus + has expanded and become more democratic, in order to keep pace with changes in our society.

And yet, discouraging testimonies regularly come back from the field: a student who was unable to go on a trip because of his disability, due to a lack of suitable structures and support, an apprentice whose family did not authorise the mobility project, a young person who was unable to carry out his project due to a lack of financial means, or an adult in training for whom the remote geographical location was too great an obstacle. Not forgetting all those young people who simply think that Erasmus is not for them, that it is only for students, or for those who have money, parental support, for those who live in big cities, for the others.

Faced with these problems, my report - which refers to the inclusion measures that were carried out in the previous 2014-2020 period - aims to make recommendations for the future. It is indeed important to study in depth what has already been done, to identify good practices, obstacles, failures as well as successes in the field of inclusion, if we want to reach the most remote audiences of the programme.

Have the inclusion measures been successful?

The lack of a harmonised European inclusion strategy in the Erasmus + 2014-2020 programme has left the Erasmus + National Agencies with sole responsibility for the strategy and its implementation. All of them, to varying degrees, have tried to include audiences with "fewer opportunities". But, for example, it is striking to note that their definition and consideration of them was not unified in the 2014-2020 period. For example, some agencies considered "only" those with disabilities or socio-economic difficulties, while others put more emphasis on those coming from geographically remote areas.... This lack of harmonisation has had a major impact on the implementation of a truly European strategy, and it is hoped that the new programme, the conclusions of my report and the guidelines published by the Commission can remedy this.

What are the objectives set by your report for the coming years?

I am not setting any numerical targets, but I simply want every young person and every adult in training to be informed of the possibilities offered by the Erasmus + programme and, if they so wish, to take part in an exchange or mobility project without encountering barriers.

What do you recommend as levers for action?

My recommendations are of different kinds.

The most urgent one is the crucial need to adapt scholarships and financial aid to the situation of the participants, in particular by allowing pre-financing. Many young people do not have the financial capacity and family support to advance the necessary sums, and sometimes give up their project. This should not happen any more.

I would also like to see better support for the teachers, accompanying adults and staff of the associations that run the projects. They are often volunteers, they are the ones who set up the projects, who help the participants to complete the applications and provide the necessary supporting documents. Without them, most participants with fewer opportunities would not be able to participate, let alone set up Erasmus + projects. It is therefore necessary to provide these staff with support and also to give them the means to accompany mobilities. Better support would also give confidence to families, who are sometimes reluctant, and to participants, while ensuring that projects run smoothly.

On a more logistical level, I would like the European Commission to correct once and for all the malfunctions and complexities of its IT tools, which are not always easy to access for associations and project leaders.

We must not add a digital divide to the difficulties!

Finally, I ask that, while respecting the protection of personal data, we succeed in gathering reliable data on the participation of people with fewer opportunities to act better tomorrow.

It is with this simplification and with a clear vision of the extent of the needs that we can truly make Erasmus + a programme for all.