Auteur: Nikolaj Nielsen
BRUSSELS - Spain’s sudden decision to cut Erasmus scholarships in the middle of the academic year has sparked outrage among Spanish students and some members of government.
The cost-cutting measure, introduced last week, cancels a €120 per month living allowance from the national coffer on top of the standard Erasmus EU-funded grant.
The move affects all but the poorest Spanish Erasmus students but the uproar forced Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert on Tuesday (5 November) to extend the grants for the rest of the academic year.
“The government recognises that those receiving these Erasmus scholarships this year did not know about the decision to focus the aid on poorer students,” he is quoted as saying in the AFP.
AFP reports the Spanish Socialist Party will request Wert to resign as education minister.
A Spanish student blog exposed the change to the wider public after the government quietly published its decision in a bulletin.
Some 39,000 Spanish students, reportedly more than any other EU member state, participate in the Erasmus student exchange programme.
The Spanish government has been reducing its national share for the past two years. The EU contribution of around €111 per month is not affected by Spain’s decision to slash its share of the student grant.
The European Commission, for its part, said the national authorities should have informed the students in advance of the cuts.
“This decision taken by the Spanish authorities, should have been revealed to the students before the start of the current academic year,” European Commission spokesperson Olivier Bailly told reporters in Brussels.
He noted that similar moves had been made in other member states. Both France and Belgium cut their national contributions but maintained grants for the less well off students.
Bailly said the popular EU student scholarship is set to expand for the 2014 to 2020 period to cover an additional two million students with its new Erasmus + programme.
“For the 2014 to 2020 period there will be a 40 percent increase in our budget under Erasmus +, so that means an additional two million students will be able to benefit from the EU grant,” he said.
The new €14 billion Erasmus + programme received the backing of the European Parliament’s education committee on Tuesday.
The EU-funded grant is designed to allow over five million young people under 30 to study, train and volunteer in other countries.
Erasmus + is also set to guarantee loans for students pursuing a master degree in another country.
Students in a one year masters programme can have loans guaranteed up to €12,000 while up to €18,000 can be secured for those pursing a two-year programme.
The programme is set for launch in January 2014 but must first be approved by the parliament in November, followed by the member states.