By Sandra Jøgensen

Throughout the years, the Erasmus+ programme has benefitted a lot of people across Europe, including individuals and organisations from the UK. Erasmus+ is an EU funded programme made to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. The aim of the programme is to promote growth, employment, equity and social inclusion in Europe through the mentioned fields which are considered essential for the promotion of common European values, social integration, enhancing intercultural awareness and understanding as well as creating a sense of belonging to the same community among the European citizens. Erasmus+ also promotes the inclusion of people with disadvantaged backgrounds such as newly arrived migrants.

Another aim of the programme is to empower young people to actively participate in society and shape the democratic life in Europe by enhancing their skills and competences as well as providing them with professional skills that are required by the labour market in an attempt to enhance employment across Europe.  Thus, this programme is considered an investment in knowledge, skills, and competences that benefits both individuals, organisations, and society as it contributes to growth, equity, prosperity and social inclusion in Europe and beyond (European Commission, 2020, p. 5).

Through the Erasmus+ programme, young people will be provided the opportunity to study, volunteer or gain work experience through training or internships abroad. Through these opportunities they can develop new skills, gain international experience, and enhance their chances of employment in the future. It also provides staff of educational institutions and civil society organisations the opportunity to teach or train abroad which contributes to enhancing their professional practice, creating an international network and gaining new perspectives and ideas. Lastly, the programme also presents organisations the possibility to collaborate with international partners to share best practice, enhance innovation, and offer new opportunities to young people across Europe.

The programme is funded by the European Union, meaning that participants will be covered financially by the European Union when joining the programme which is what makes it possible for many people to go abroad either to study, volunteer or work, as they do not have to worry about how to cover their living expenses in a foreign country. Furthermore, the funding also makes it possible for various projects to be carried out in collaboration with European partners (Erasmus+).

In practice, all this means that the Erasmus+ programmes offers many benefits for both young people, professionals, and organisations, though many of the benefits are often mentioned in relation to young people.

The opportunity to go abroad either to study, volunteer or train is a great experience for young people. It enhances both personal as well as professional skills, as studying, volunteering or working abroad brings with it  a lot of useful knowledge and positive experiences such as testing and learning knew professional skills, gaining more knowledge and awareness of other cultures and their way of doing things, creating new friends and a new network, learning new language skills, and gaining new perspectives on things. Furthermore, by challenging yourself to be in a new an unknown situation, you will surely develop a lot of interpersonal skills and become more mature, independent, and confident as you also learn more about yourself and what you are capable of (Erasmus+).

All these experiences and skills empower young people and contribute to a positive development of their competences. This experience will also benefit young people in the future as it will help them develop skills that are invaluable when seeking employment in the future. International experiences look good on a CV and can help you stand out from the many applicants as many employers regard international experience significant when recruiting new employees (Araujo, 2020). Actually, research has found that people who have had an Erasmus exchange have enhanced employment possibilities and find work more quickly after graduation (Cole, 2018).

However, individuals are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of the Erasmus+ programme. The programme also enhances the connection the UK has with the rest of Europe, as many international students make use of the programme to be able to study in the UK. These students contribute to the international community and diversity present at many of the universities across the UK. In addition to this, these students also make a large economic contribution through their spending in the UK. Lastly, these students help strengthen the international connections of UK as they spread their knowledge about the UK, meaning that the programme also enhances the international promotion of the UK which could lead to further economic and political benefits (Cole, 2018).

Following Brexit, the future of the Erasmus+ programme and its implications for the UK are still unknown. Until the end of 2020 the Erasmus programme has continued to apply for the UK in the same way as before the UK opted for leaving the European Union. However, the government has yet to decide whether the UK will continue to be part of the programme after leaving the EU, as they state that they are open to participating in certain elements of the programme on a time-limited basis, if the terms are in line with UK interests (Reuben, 2020).

However, the government is also considering replacing the Erasmus+ programme with a domestic alternative that will continue supporting international exchange. That being said, it will be difficult to reach the same benefits through a national programme, thus implicating that many of the mentioned benefits of the Erasmus+ programme could potentially be lost to the UK and the UK citizens (Reuben, 2020).

This could be a fatal blow for UK universities as many foreign students may not be able to or want to come to the UK to study without any financial support. This could lead to economic issues, as the economic contributions from exchange students will be heavily reduced. Furthermore, it will make it more difficult for UK citizens to have the opportunity of going abroad and gain the skills and positive experiences which this entails. It will make it especially hard for citizens with a disadvantaged background as they may not receive the necessary support through another programme and can therefore lose the opportunity of going abroad due to their conditions, thus resulting in a more unequal society.

In general, it may also imply that young people will have difficulties gaining the necessary experience to enhance their job opportunities or will not be prepared for working in an international setting. This especially applies to students of language degrees where studying or working abroad is a compulsory part of the degree, meaning that many students may refrain from choosing language studies in the future if they do not have the economic means to finance a stay abroad by themselves. By limiting the opportunities to gain professional skills through international exchange and experiences, the labour market could also suffer and make it harder for the UK to compete with other international companies who may have more experienced and diversified employees (Fazackerley, 2020). Thus, the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus programme could have major consequences, both for the citizens of the UK but also for the society.

As a Danish citizen, I have personally gained a lot of benefits from the Erasmus+ programme. It has provided me both with the possibility of volunteering for an organisation in another country as well as studying and doing an internship abroad as part of my university studies. All these experiences have made me gain a lot of interpersonal as well as professional skills and, overall, just given me some amazing experiences in different countries where I got to know amazing friends and learn new things every day. I would not want to be without all these experiences as they have given me so much and I would encourage everyone, who has the opportunity of going abroad through Erasmus, to utilise it.

However, without the funding from the Erasmus+ programme, I probably would not have been able to go abroad so many times and gain so many positive experiences that have contributed immensely to the person I am today. I would therefore be very sad if the young people of the UK miss out on this amazing opportunity to develop themselves both professionally but also personally. Therefore, it is important to make the government aware of what the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme really means, both to individuals but also to the society.

 

 

Araujo, C. (2020) 10 Benefits of the Erasmus Exchange Program. Eurosender. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://www.eurosender.com/blog/en/10-benefits-of-erasmus/

 

Cole, J. (2018) Why Erasmus is important for students. Russell Group. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/the-importance-of-student-exchange/

 

Erasmus+. About Erasmus+. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from:

https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/about-erasmus#

 

Erasmus+. Why take part? Retrieved November 4, 2020 from:

https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/why-take-part

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